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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder during the night.

The reality is more common sense than you may think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. 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 alone is not a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is happening. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or someone speaking.

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

That would explain a few things about tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to go to sleep.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

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

But, there are also devices made to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If introducing 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 solutions 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.