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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.

The reality is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical issue.

What is tinnitus?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a sound 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 by itself is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is normally the root of this disorder. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign 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 start to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong understanding of why it happens. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs get 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 somebody speaking.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not getting.

That would explain some things about tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that affect the ear: mild 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 realize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet during the night when you try to fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when confronted with complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce 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. Producing sound may be the remedy for people who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.

How to produce noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. 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 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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