Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.
The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one 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 by itself isn’t a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The current hypothesis regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not getting.
That would clarify some things when it comes to tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That may also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.
Why does tinnitus get louder at night?
You might not even detect it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly hear sounds coming from another room or around the corner. 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. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to cause hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Creating sound might be the remedy for people who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.
Producing noise at night
For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on may do. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an increase in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Give us a call for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.