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 suffer with it. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical disorder like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.

The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this disorder. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it progresses so slowly. This phantom noise 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 could be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Often, when these tiny hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.

The present theory pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

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

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It will faintly hear sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When faced with total silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where none exists.

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 because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

How to generate noise at night

For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The volume of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. 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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