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

If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical condition called tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are trying to go to sleep. 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 problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder during the night.

The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

What is tinnitus?

For most people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is generally at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals with hearing loss frequently don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. This phantom noise is a warning flag to notify you of a change in your hearing.

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 issues including damage to the inner ear. There are very small 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 delivering electrical signals to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person talking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will start to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.

That would explain some things when it comes to tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

You might not even detect it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where none exists.

In other words, your tinnitus may get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.

Creating noise at night

For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But, there are also devices designed to help those who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines replicate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment options by making an appointment with us today.

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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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