If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely 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’s not an outside sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.
The truth is more common sense than you probably think. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom sound 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 strong understanding of why it happens. 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 designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or somebody speaking.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to fill in for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions 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 does tinnitus get louder at night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.
Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When confronted with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where there isn’t any.
In other words, your tinnitus could get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you’re having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise may be the solution.
How to generate noise at night
For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices designed to help those who have tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play calming sounds.
What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?
Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an increase in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime program 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.