Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical issue 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 fairly simple. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses so gradually. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical signals to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or somebody speaking.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some 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?

You may not even notice it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

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

In other words, your tinnitus could get worse at night because it’s so quiet. Producing sound may be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines replicate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. 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 options by scheduling an appointment with us right away.

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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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