Hearing Health Blog

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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.

The reality is more common sense than you may think. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one 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 is an indication that something is not right, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is Taking hold. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. There are tiny 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 sending electrical signals to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person talking.

The current theory pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

That would explain some things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That may also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

You might not even recognize it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. 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 fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – create noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where none exists.

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

Creating noise at night

A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before 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. Call us for an appointment if these suggestions 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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