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 called tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder during the night.

The real reason is fairly straightforward. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus isn’t an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. 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 wrong, not a condition on its own. It is usually linked to significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person talking.

The present theory pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. The brain stays on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect 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 louder at night?

You may 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.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – create noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts 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. Producing sound may be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep due to that aggravating ringing in the ear.

How to generate 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 lowered just by the sound of the fan motor.

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

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 bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. 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 active, 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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