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

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder at night.

The reality is more common sense than you probably think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is not right, not a disorder on its own. It is usually linked to substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.

The present theory pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. 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.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. 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 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 recognize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to fall asleep.

Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When faced with total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create 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, creating some noise might be the answer.

Creating noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But, there are also devices designed to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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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.