Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.
The reality is more common sense than you might think. 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 individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this condition. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. 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 noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
At this time medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. Your brain will start to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
That would clarify some things about tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as 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 are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s so quiet. Creating sound might be the solution for people who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.
Creating noise at night
A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the fan motor.
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 leave a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Give us a call for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.