If you are one of the millions of people 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 fall asleep. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.
The reality is more common sense than you might think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
What is tinnitus?
For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a condition on its own. It is usually linked to substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals with hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It could 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 move in response to sound. Sometimes, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.
The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. The brain stays on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.
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: minor 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 worse at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. 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 really quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with total silence – create noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause 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 remedy for people who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.
How to generate noise at night
For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. 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”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Instead, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If introducing sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to find out about treatment solutions by scheduling an appointment with us right away.