Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

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

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that suffer with it. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a side-effect of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.

The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus is a sign that something is wrong, not a disorder on its own. It is typically linked to significant hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it happens. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells made to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or someone speaking.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to compensate for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not getting.

That would clarify a few things when it comes to tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

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

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. When confronted with complete silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise might be the answer.

Generating noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

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 worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime program 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 today.

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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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