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

If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom sound caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

The real reason is pretty simple. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.

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

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It might be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The current hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some people.

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

You might not even detect it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to trigger hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

How to generate noise at night

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

But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. 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 worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If adding sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by making an appointment with us right away.

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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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