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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 condition known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But why would this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is will not clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

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

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a maelstrom to you.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is not right, not a condition by itself. It is typically associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Sometimes, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently 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 someone talking.

The current hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

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

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

Unless you are significantly 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. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with complete silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound might be the remedy for people who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate 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 may do. 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. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If introducing sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by making an appointment with us right away.

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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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