If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. dealing with a medical condition called tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a side-effect 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 becomes louder at night.
The real reason is fairly straightforward. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody 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 by itself is not a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is usually associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is Taking hold. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom sound is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of a number of medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone talking.
The present hypothesis regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some 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. That may also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet during the night when you try to fall asleep.
Abruptly, all the sound fades away 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, including phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s so quiet. Creating sound might be the remedy for individuals who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
But, there are also devices made to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Give us a call for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.