Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.
The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.
What is tinnitus?
For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a sound no one else can hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is happening. It is typically linked to substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise is a warning flag to signal you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
Right now medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some people.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You may not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Producing sound might be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The volume of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices designed to help people who have tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. Contact us for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.