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 what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.

The real reason is pretty straightforward. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is true. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. It is typically linked to significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, 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 understanding of why it occurs. It could be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there is 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 absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to fill in for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not getting.

That would explain some things when it comes to tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. 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 increases in response. It only knows one response when faced with complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus may get worse at night because it’s so quiet. Creating sound might be the solution for those who can’t sleep due to that annoying ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on may do. Alternatively, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. 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 making an appointment with us today.

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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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