If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a complication 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 gets louder at 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 issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. 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 near you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this disorder. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Individuals with hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. This phantom sound is a warning flag to notify you of a change in how you hear.
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 may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
That would explain some things when it comes to tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that impact the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. 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 recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.
Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t 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 may get worse at night because it’s so quiet. Producing sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.
Creating noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to reduce tinnitus sounds. 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 create soothing 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 worse?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment options by making an appointment with us right away.