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

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder during the night.

The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.

What is tinnitus?

For most people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a noise 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 by itself isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is normally the root of this disorder. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The current theory pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. 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 feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would explain a few things when it comes to tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet during the night when you try to fall asleep.

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

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Creating sound might be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems 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.