Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.
The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.
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 ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is happening. It is generally linked to substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Right now medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to fill in for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
That would clarify some things regarding tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect 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 people.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. 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 listens for sound to process. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where none exists.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise may be the answer.
How to produce 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 fan motor.
But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an increase in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.