Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

Tinnitus often gets 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 is a phantom sound due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.

The reality is more common sense than you probably think. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a condition by itself. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals 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 a person talking.

The present theory regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in 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 explain 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. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

You might not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – create 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, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Creating sound may be the remedy for those who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.

How to produce noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they require 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 replicate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with 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 bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, 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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