If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to fall asleep. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder 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 frequently during the night.
The real reason is fairly simple. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.
What is tinnitus?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is generally at the base of this condition. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering 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 a person talking.
The current theory regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets perplexed by the lack of input from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: minor 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 may not even notice it, but your ear receives 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 go to sleep.
All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where none exists.
In other words, your tinnitus may get louder 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 may be the answer.
Creating noise at night
For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The volume of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Give us a call for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.