If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.
The truth is more common sense than you may think. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
What is tinnitus?
To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this condition. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. People who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it happens. It may be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. There are very small 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 sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The current 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 sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
That would clarify a few things regarding tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You might not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to fall asleep.
Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome 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. Creating sound might be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.
How to generate noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines create calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.