Gilberts Audiology & Hearing Aid Center - Oklahoma

Man in bed at night suffering insomnia from severe tinnitus and ringing in the ear.

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that suffer with it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom sound caused by some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.

The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical issue.

What is tinnitus?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody 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 isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Often, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or a person speaking.

The current hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus has to do with 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 gets perplexed by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

That would clarify a few things when it comes to 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. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

You might not even realize it, but your ear is picking up 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 stops at night when you try to fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus might get louder at night because it’s too quiet. Producing sound may be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

How to create noise at night

For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Instead, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Give us a call for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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