If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to fall asleep. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.
The reality is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is happening. It is generally linked to substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of a number of medical issues including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear contains many 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 sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.
The current hypothesis regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some people.
Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
You might not even notice 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. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the answer.
How to generate noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. 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 who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines create calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge 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 contribute to your symptoms. 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.