If you are one of the millions of individuals in the U.S. dealing with a medical condition called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But why should this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a side-effect of a medical problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.
The reality is more common sense than you might think. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.
Tinnitus, what is it?
To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.
The present hypothesis regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.
That would explain some things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. That could also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.
Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?
You may not even notice it, but your ear is picking up 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 total silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.
In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. If you are having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the answer.
Creating noise at night
A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. 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 reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive 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?
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. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Give us a call for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.