If you are one of the millions of individuals 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 trying to fall asleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.
The truth 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 people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a sound no one else is able to 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 isn’t a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is typically linked to significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny 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 interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.
The present theory pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will start to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. For one, 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 worse at night for some individuals.
Why does tinnitus get worse at night?
You may not even detect it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But at 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 – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus may get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
Generating noise at night
For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines generate calming sounds that you can sleep through. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Give us a call for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.