If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom sound caused by some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the 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 disorder.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds 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 beside you can’t hear it at all.
Tinnitus is an indication that something is not right, not a condition by itself. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is Taking hold. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.
What causes tinnitus?
Right now medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical conditions. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or somebody speaking.
The current theory regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not getting.
That would clarify some things when it comes to tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?
You may not even realize 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. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to go to sleep.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – create noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise may be the solution.
How to generate noise at night
For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to decrease the ringing.
But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be disruptive, but white noise machines create 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 cause an increase in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. Give us a call for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.