Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.
The real reason is pretty straightforward. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else can hear. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is happening. It is usually associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it happens. It could be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The present hypothesis regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
That would clarify a few things about 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. That could also be why the symptoms get louder 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 realize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to fall asleep.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
How to create noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The volume of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices designed to help people who have tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Instead, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened 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 suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.