If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a side-effect of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder during the night.
The real reason is pretty simple. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a sound no one else can hear. 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 alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. 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 conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move 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 occur. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The current hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain stays on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
That would explain some things when it comes to tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You may not even detect it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly hear sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. When confronted with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s so quiet. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
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 decrease the ringing.
But, there are also devices made to help individuals who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines replicate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
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. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.