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

If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting 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’s not an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder during the night.

The truth is more common sense than you may think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical problem.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner sleeping 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. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this condition. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so slowly. This phantom sound is a warning flag to notify you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical signals to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or someone talking.

The present hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would explain some things regarding tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

You might not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s too 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 create noise at night

For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the fan motor.

But, there are also devices designed to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

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. Contact us for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.

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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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