Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not 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 during the 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.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus is an indication that something is not right, not a condition by itself. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this condition. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is Taking hold. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
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 come, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
That would explain a few things about tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That could also be 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 realize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the solution.
Creating noise at night
A fan running is often enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment solutions by making an appointment with us right away.