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

Tinnitus tends to get 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 sound caused by some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t 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 learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this condition. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these sounds, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It may be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or someone speaking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. Your brain will start to compensate for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would clarify a few things about tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect the ear: minor 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 know it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

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

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 sound 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 soothing sounds.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.

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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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