Tinnitus tends to get 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 buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at 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?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. 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 is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition by itself. It is generally linked to significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. 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 greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become 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 comprehend like a car horn or somebody talking.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
That would explain some things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That could also be the reason why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You may not even realize it, but your ear receives 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 very quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When faced with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the answer.
How to create noise at night
For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The volume of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also get devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on may do. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.