Audiology & Hearing Care of SWFL - Bonita Springs, FL

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

If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder known as 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 disorder like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.

The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, 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 alone is not a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is normally the root of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. 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 alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some people.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. 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 goes quiet during the night when you try to fall asleep.

Suddenly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. 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 might get louder at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound might be the remedy for people who can’t sleep due to that irritating ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Call 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.