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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at night.

The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a sound no one else can hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this disorder. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom sound is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The current hypothesis 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 in that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would explain a few things when it comes to 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 worse at night for some people.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

You may not even detect it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to go to sleep.

Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When faced with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.

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

Generating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But, there are also devices made to help individuals who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines replicate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. 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 trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment options 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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