Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But why would this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a side-effect of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at night.
The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
What is tinnitus?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. People with hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, 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 clear understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these tiny hairs become 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 current hypothesis regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You might not even notice it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But at 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 confronted with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to trigger hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Producing sound may be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep due to that annoying ringing in the ear.
How to generate noise at night
A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.
But, there are also devices made to help people 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 distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.