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. suffering from a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.

The truth is more common sense than you probably think. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a sound no one else can hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition by itself. It is usually linked to significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom sound is a warning flag to warn you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move 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 recognizable sounds.

The current theory pertaining to 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 that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.

That would explain some things regarding 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. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some people.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It will faintly hear 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 fall asleep.

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

In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s so quiet. Creating sound might be the remedy for individuals who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they require 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, there are also devices designed to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime routine 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 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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