Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder at night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus is not a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a disorder on its own. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this disorder. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn 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 could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or someone talking.
The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for input 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, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Creating sound might be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
Producing noise at night
For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But, there are also devices made to help those who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines reproduce nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on may do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.