If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom sound caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at night.
The reality is more common sense than you may think. 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 compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. It’s a sound no one else can hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re alerting 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 a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some people.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.
Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise may be the answer.
Producing noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the fan motor.
But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the capability 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 indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime routine 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.