Man in bed at night suffering insomnia from severe tinnitus and ringing in the ear.

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But what’s the reason for this? 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 often at night.

The real reason is pretty straightforward. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real 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 ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus alone is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is usually associated with substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. 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 noises, 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 strong understanding of why it occurs. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or somebody speaking.

The current theory regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will begin to fill in for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, such as 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 people.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

You might 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. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Suddenly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.

In other words, your tinnitus might get louder at night because it’s too quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.

Creating noise at night

A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is reduced just by the sound of the fan motor.

But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated 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 may do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If adding 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 scheduling an appointment with us today.

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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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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