Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that suffer with it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder at night.
The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this extremely common medical issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
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 is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. It is generally linked to substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. This phantom noise is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it happens. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate 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 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 attempts to compensate for it.
That would explain a few things about tinnitus. 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 louder at night?
You may not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when faced with complete silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to induce 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 because of that irritating ringing in the ear.
How to create noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. Just the sound of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But you can also get devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Call us for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.