Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.
The reality is more common sense than you may think. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a condition by itself. It is typically associated with substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Individuals with hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start 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 biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It could be a symptom of a number of medical issues including damage to the inner ear. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The current theory pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain stays 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 attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You might not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. 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 goes up in response. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Producing sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
How to generate noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many people. The volume of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines create soothing sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified 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 contribute to your symptoms. Contact us for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.