Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder during the night.
The real reason is pretty straightforward. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.
What is tinnitus?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus is an indication that something is not right, not a condition by itself. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this condition. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it happens. It could be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The current theory regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.
That would clarify a few things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. That could also be the reason why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You may not even realize it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly hear sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. When faced with total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Producing sound may be the solution for people who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
How to generate noise at night
For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.