Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But why should this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.
The reality is more common sense than you probably think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. 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?
Right now medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. There are tiny 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. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or a person speaking.
The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will start to compensate for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. That could also be the reason why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You may not even detect it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from a different 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 increases in response. It only knows one response when faced with complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Creating sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.
How to produce noise at night
A fan running is often enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
But, there are also devices designed to help people who have tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines create soothing sounds that you can sleep through. 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 bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment options by scheduling an appointment with us right away.