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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 most of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not an actual 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 need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

For most people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus alone is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this disorder. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would clarify a few things regarding tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: mild 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 might not even recognize it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as 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 solution for people who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.

Creating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But, there are also devices designed to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to worsen 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 routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment options by making 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.