Geneva Hearing Services - Geneva, IL

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

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder during the night.

The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition by itself. It is usually linked to significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise is a warning flag to notify you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it happens. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills 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. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When confronted with total silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.

In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound may be the remedy for people who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

Creating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. The volume of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines replicate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

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. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment options by making 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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