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 suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at night.

The truth is more common sense than you probably think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. It’s a sound no one else is able to 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 is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. It is typically associated with substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. People who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. 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 biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. The inner ear contains lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate 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. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone speaking.

The current theory regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

That would explain some things when it comes to tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments 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 individuals.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

You may not even detect it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

How to produce noise at night

For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The volume of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the fan motor.

But, there are also devices designed to help those with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.

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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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