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How to Stop Tinnitus at Night

March 27, 2023
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Written by
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A
Amy Sarow, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Amy Sarow is a practicing clinical audiologist and serves as Audiology Lead for Soundly. Her expertise and experience span topics including tinnitus, cochlear implants, hearing aid technology, and hearing testing. She holds a doctoral degree in audiology from the University of Iowa. During her residency at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sarow was inspired by the three-tiered, patient-centered approach, incorporating clinical work, teaching and research.

Soundly Staff
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As an audiologist, I have the opportunity to work with many patients who suffer from tinnitus. For those unfamiliar with tinnitus, the condition presents as ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be heard even when no external sound is present. Tinnitus can be incredibly disruptive and negatively affects daily life—especially at night—and often brings about feelings of frustration and fatigue.

If you find the sound of your tinnitus is keeping you awake at night, it can interfere with your ability to get a good night's rest. Unfortunately, it is worse in the evenings for many tinnitus sufferers when everything else is quiet. Looking for some relief from tinnitus at night? Keep reading and bookmark these tips for finding tinnitus relief after sundown.

What causes tinnitus?

Before we discuss how to stop tinnitus at night, let's talk about what causes tinnitus in the first place. Tinnitus can be caused by several etiologies, most commonly due to hearing loss. However, other causes can contribute to tinnitus, such as infections, head or neck injuries, earwax build-up, certain medications, high blood pressure, or other causes. An evaluation with a doctor can help determine the potential cause. If a medical condition needs treatment, this may resolve the tinnitus. For example, an ear infection that requires medication or medical treatment. However, tinnitus on its own does not currently have a cure.

Tinnitus is generated in the brain. Not everyone experiences tinnitus in the same way: For some people, it may be more of a ringing noise and for others, it resembles a buzzing sound. Tinnitus is any persistent noise in your ears that isn't coming from an outside source (such as music or someone talking). It may constantly be present, or it can come and go, and it can be in just one ear or sound as if it's coming from both ears.

Why does it seem worse at night?

You're not alone if you notice tinnitus, most often at night. Some folks find its presence extremely bothersome and quiet settings tend to provoke tinnitus the most. But, why exactly is that? An accepted theory of tinnitus is an increase in the spontaneous neural firing rate that causes the perception of sound when there isn't any. Think of it this way. The brain is used to perceiving sound. So when hearing loss occurs, the brain craves the sound it once heard. As a result, it triggers an increase in the activity of the hearing nerve. This increased firing rate causes the perception of sound, even when there is none. In quiet, without any background noise tinnitus stands out the most. 

White Noise and Sleep Buds

One way to help mask the noise associated with tinnitus at night? Use a white noise machine. These devices are designed to help mask background noises so you can sleep better without being distracted by the ringing in your ears. This type of machine can also play other colors of noise, such as pink noise, brown noise, green noise, or other sounds that blend or mask your tinnitus. Taking the edge off of that sound often helps to relax so you don't feel so preoccupied with tinnitus, which can create a vicious cycle that keeps you awake at night and prevents a restful night's sleep.

Sleep buds are also great for helping mask unwanted sounds because they block out external sounds while playing soothing music or white noise directly into your ears—allowing you to get a good night's rest without interruption from your tinnitus. Sleep buds or a sound pillow that plays music or noise from your pillow is a great way to get some relief without disturbing your spouse.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Making lifestyle adjustments can also help to manage your tinnitus both during the day and at night. When you make changes that help reduce stress levels, your tinnitus isn't as loud at night. That's because stress is a significant contributor to tinnitus perception. Most of us often feel stressed from work or other events by the end of the day. 

So, how can you manage stress? Take time during the day to work in breaks for yourself, such as taking a short walk or setting aside time every day to do something you enjoy.

Other lifestyle changes can help you feel your best and improve your well-being. For example, staying well hydrated and getting enough sleep can help alleviate tinnitus symptom severity both during the day and at night. Taking in good nutrition and reducing caffeine and alcohol can also help you feel your best, improving sleep quality and reducing tinnitus.

Meditation

Meditation can have a profound effect on your overall well-being and outlook. Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation can help reduce symptoms associated with tinnitus during waking hours. Are you new to meditation practice? If so, take a look at our helpful list of tinnitus apps, which includes meditation app suggestions and others you may find beneficial.

Getting the Help You Need

Living with tinnitus can take a toll; if you cannot manage it alone, help is available. First, speak to your doctor about your feelings and any changes that may have happened since you last spoke with them. They may offer advice on lifestyle changes that may help and suggestions for other options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Or, they may even provide referrals to additional specialists. Consider working with an audiologist who specializes in tinnitus for additional support.

If you believe your tinnitus is interfering with your sleep or quality of life, it's essential to speak with a professional who can assess the underlying cause and provide treatments and solutions tailored to you. Getting the help you need can make all the difference.

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Takeaways on Tinnitus at Night

If you suffer from tinnitus, it can be incredibly frustrating to experience when trying to get a good night's sleep. However, you can manage this issue in many ways and make adjustments that may help reduce its presence in your life. From lifestyle changes like reducing stress and increasing hydration to masking noise with options like sleep buds or white noise machines—there are many ways to help you regain control of your tinnitus and rest better at night.

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