If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.
The truth is more common sense than you may think. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
Tinnitus, what is it?
For most people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else can hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus is a sign that something is wrong, not a disorder on its own. It is typically linked to significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. 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 sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Presently medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It could be a symptom of numerous medical issues including damage to the inner ear. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The absence of sound is the basis of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.
When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify a few things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that impact the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
You might not even detect it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to go to sleep.
All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. When confronted with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to produce input where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise might be the solution.
How to produce noise at night
For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.
But, there are also devices made to help people with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.
Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?
Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse 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 tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.