Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing 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 a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else can hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is happening. It is typically linked to substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. People with hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses 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 biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it happens. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues 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 transmitting electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
That would explain some things about tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause 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. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.
Generating noise at night
For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could go with an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment solutions by making an appointment with us today.