If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical condition called tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.
The truth is more common sense than you may think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is wrong, not a disorder on its own. It is typically associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. 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 warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it occurs. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. 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 sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person speaking.
The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You may not even notice 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 at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. When faced with total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to induce 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 louder. Producing sound might be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.
Generating noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices made to help those who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.