If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.
The real reason is fairly simple. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this extremely common medical issue.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus isn’t an actual sound just compounds 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 an indication that something is wrong, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this condition. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice 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 not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It could be a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals 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 pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as 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 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 somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops at 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. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might 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.
Generating noise at night
For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
But, there are also devices designed to help individuals who have tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated 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. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe 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.