If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder during the night.
The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. Individuals with hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses so gradually. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. 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 compensate for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that impact the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some people.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You might 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. 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. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Producing sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
How to generate 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 reduce tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re under stress 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 options by scheduling an appointment with us right away.