Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Depression

Most of us reading this article have experienced ringing in our ears due to short bursts of loud noise. Something as seemingly benign as a car with a loud muffler or a motorcycle revving its engine can be downright painful. For others, regularly going to nightclubs and remaining in loud environments (like movie theatres) can cause that feeling of fullness in the ears that often comes with ringing or other noises, collectively known as tinnitus. For about 80% of us, tinnitus is transitory. Eventually, it goes away, or it is mild enough that we can move on with our lives and live with it without a significant impact on our lives.

That means 15-20% of us live with tinnitus significant enough to cause lifestyle impediments or even impair hearing. Tinnitus, in and of itself, is not dangerous, though significant concerns can bring it about, like long-term eustachian tube dysfunction, malignancies, or toxicity from medications or other drugs.  However, its effects on the psyche can be profound. Many patients with moderate to severe tinnitus find it can negatively impact their quality of life. Initially, they can often cope, but a continuous noise in the ears can be difficult to ignore. It may ultimately aggravate mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Treating mental health issues stemming from tinnitus

It is difficult to understand tinnitus if you have never experienced it chronically, so some may not comprehend the mental health problems resulting from the condition. The struggle with tinnitus is genuine. Further, significant tinnitus symptoms put a burden not only on the patient suffering from it but on their families and caregivers as well.

Anxiety is already prevalent today, and concerns such as tinnitus only highlight and worsen the problem. It can aggravate what were previously mild mental health problems, including major depressive disorders or panic disorder. Patients with untreated significant tinnitus can withdraw and do not enjoy their lives as they should.

Treatment for tinnitus-induced anxiety and depression

While beyond the scope of this article, it should be noted that comprehensively addressing mental health issues will improve the patient’s capacity to deal with tinnitus.  This can include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, and others.  Discussion with the patient’s primary care and/or mental health provider is essential to tackle these issues.

Next Steps

If you’ve had severe tinnitus for a long time, please don’t think there’s nothing that can be done.  While there may be no cure, Dr. Boger is ready to evaluate you and suggest a treatment plan which will help you to cope.