Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder during the night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to understand 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. It’s a sound no one else is able to 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 an indication that something is not right, not a disorder on its own. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. 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?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
That would explain some things about tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
Unless you are profoundly 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. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops at night when you try to go to sleep.
Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. When confronted with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The volume of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the fan motor.
But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
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 extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime regimen 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 today.