If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical condition known as tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder at night.
The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.
Tinnitus is an indication that something is wrong, not a disorder by itself. It is typically linked to substantial hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom sound is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it happens. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate 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 identifiable sounds.
The current theory regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets perplexed by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
That would explain a few things when it comes to tinnitus. 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 worse at night for some individuals.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. 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 stops at night when you try to go to sleep.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
How to produce noise at night
For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.
But you can also get devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play calming sounds.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Call us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.