Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder during the night.
The real reason is fairly straightforward. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
To say tinnitus isn’t an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. 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 by itself isn’t a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. People who have hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
At this time medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. For starters, 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 individuals.
Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you realize 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.
Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with complete silence – create noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.
How to produce noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The volume of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines create calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.