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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 individuals in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.

The reality is more common sense than you might think. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else is able to 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 condition on its own. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this disorder. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.

That would explain a few things regarding tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions 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 louder at night?

You might not even realize 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 really quiet.

Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.

Producing noise at night

For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But, there are also devices made to help those who have tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen 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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