If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why should this be? 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 permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.
The reality is more common sense than you may think. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this very common medical issue.
What is tinnitus?
For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a sound 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 is a sign that something is not right, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. People with hearing loss frequently don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it develops so slowly. This phantom noise is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The present theory regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
That would explain a few things about tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses 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 louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops at night when you try to go to sleep.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. When faced with total silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, including 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. Creating sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.
How to produce noise at night
For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. For example, 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 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.