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 caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.

The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t a real 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 tornado to you.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is wrong, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so gradually. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it happens. It might be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone talking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will start to compensate for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

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

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

You might not even notice 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. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.

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 – create noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise may be the solution.

How to generate noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by scheduling an appointment with us today.

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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.