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 ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder during the night.
The real reason is pretty straightforward. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is happening. It is generally linked to substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom sound is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. Your brain will start to fill in for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That could also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. 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 leave a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines create calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.