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 disorder known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder at night.

The reality is more common sense than you may think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear. 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 is a sign that something is not right, not a disorder by itself. It is generally linked to significant hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it happens. It might be a symptom of a number of medical issues including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Sometimes, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret 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 gets perplexed by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

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

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

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

Creating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the fan motor.

But, there are also devices designed to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by scheduling an appointment with us right away.

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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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