Recall the last time you attended a very loud concert, sporting event, nightclub, or even busy restaurant. Do you remember the experience of trying to go to sleep at the end of the night? If the noise at that event was loud enough, you might have had a lingering ringing in your ears after you left, even making it difficult to fall asleep. As you laid your head on the pillow in a quiet room, you might have heard a loud tone that seemed extreme in comparison with the stillness of the night air.
In most cases, this ringing tone goes away with time, particularly when it is associated with a single loud event. However, those with chronic tinnitus are not so lucky. Rather than finding that the tone ameliorates with time, that ringing, buzzing, whirring, or crackling sound persists, sometimes for years.
Those with chronic tinnitus were just the people investigated by a recent study from the Department of Otolaryngology of Catholic University in Rome in 2015. Their findings were published in the study titled “Relationship between Tinnitus Perception and Psychiatric Discomfort” in the International Tinnitus Journal in April 2017. This study considered not only the relationship between chronic tinnitus and the environment but also the mental health conditions that people with chronic tinnitus endured.
The subjects of the study were those who reported ongoing tinnitus for an average of 6 years and 9 months, and they reported a range of severity in the sounds they heard that would not go away. Although they had a range of backgrounds when in came to the severity of the condition, there was a statistically significant relationship with two negative mental health outcomes: depression and anxiety. Of the 80 sufferers of tinnitus who took part in the study, 42.5% reported that they did not have anxiety or depression. However, 26.3% reported depressive symptoms, and a full 45% reported the experience of anxiety. Both of these percentages were well above the amounts reported in the general population, making the researchers wonder if there was a statistically significant relationship.
And indeed there was. Holding constant other factors, those with chronic tinnitus were more commonly experiencing both anxiety and depression. One of the confounding factors was the parallel relationship between hearing loss and anxiety and depression. You see, many of the people who had chronic tinnitus also had hearing loss. In fact only 16% reported normal hearing other than the chronic tinnitus symptoms. Although hearing loss is also associated with depression and anxiety, the researchers found an independent relationship between chronic tinnitus and the negative mental health outcomes.
A Link between Tinnitus and Anxiety and Depression
This statistical finding led the researchers to wonder what might cause the relationship. In one sense, it seems quite clear that a direct relationship between chronic tinnitus, anxiety, and depression might exist. Those who have a constant ringing in their ears face an incredibly frustrating and annoying situation, sometimes even debilitating. By being prevented from easily enjoying their favorite activities, some of these people become anxious and depressed in general. However, an indirect relationship also exists with social isolation, as well. Those who have chronic tinnitus might become inclined to avoid situations where they were expected to easily relate with others. With the persistent ringing, buzzing, whirring, sloshing, or grinding sound in the background, they might find it difficult to engage in regular activities at all, preferring to avoid them. If this is the case, social isolation might lead to a host of other mental health outcomes. When people avoid social encounters with the ones they love, they can feel frustrated, angry, worried the experience will never end, or even hopeless about their own future.
The good news is that tinnitus treatments and remedies exist. New hearing assistance technology is designed to cancel out the persistent sounds in the ears, and these devices can be remarkably helpful to make your listening environment peaceful once again. Now we know that there can be impacts on mental health in the form of depression and anxiety reduction, as well.
Pacific Hearing Care
If you experience chronic tinnitus, don’t delay to seek out assistance from our team at Pacific Hearing Care. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and will help you find a solution to alleviate the sounds of tinnitus.