Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why should this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.
The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
To say tinnitus is not a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells made to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person speaking.
The present theory regarding 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 in that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
That would clarify some things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.
Why does tinnitus get louder at night?
Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with total silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s so quiet. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be disruptive, 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 you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If adding 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 options by making an appointment with us today.