Almost everyone has experienced ringing, whooshing, or hissing sounds in one or both ears, but some have a condition called tinnitus in which these sounds go on for an extended period.
The problem can be particularly annoying at night, and cause trouble for sufferers who are trying to fall asleep. See your doctor if you are experiencing persistent ringing or other ear noises that keep you up at night, as it could be a symptom of another problem that may be treatable.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is present if a persistent ringing or other noise in your head is not due to an outside source. It can come in one or both ears, and some of its causes include exposure to loud noises, hearing loss, certain medications, and stress. Doctors diagnose the condition as chronic tinnitus if it lasts more than six months.
The condition is common, and people over the age of 55, especially if they suffer from hearing loss, are particularly at risk. The ailment itself is not dangerous, but it can mean that there is something more serious going on, and it can negatively impact your quality of life.
How Does Tinnitus Impact Sleep?
Nighttime conditions make tinnitus seem worse, to the point of making it difficult to sleep through the noise. There are other noises during the day that make people more easily able to ignore their tinnitus or even fail to notice that the ringing or other sounds are even there.
It is much quieter at night, making the tinnitus more noticeable. Stress and fatigue also tend to worsen tinnitus, so when you most need to fall asleep, you may suffer the most difficulty doing so.
Should You See a Doctor If You Have Tinnitus?
Because tinnitus itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of other problems, you should visit a doctor to help find the cause. An audiologist can give you a hearing test to determine if your tinnitus is caused by a hearing-related problem.
In this case, having tinnitus can be a blessing in disguise, as untreated hearing problems can lead to permanent loss or other conditions. You should also visit your primary care doctor for a regular medical exam to rule out other conditions that lead to tinnitus.
The best treatment for tinnitus is the elimination of the condition that led to the ringing or other sounds in your ears. If this is not possible, some patients have had success through biofeedback and other therapies, but suffers have gone to great lengths to stop the humming. Some have even tried hypnosis!
Others use tinnitus maskers that look like hearing aids and cover up the sounds you can hear with less annoying sounds. People who suffer from hearing loss see relief from tinnitus when they get hearing aids. Your audiologist or hearing healthcare professional can help you decide which treatment is best. While you are waiting for your appointment, try playing background noise such as soothing sounds of the ocean to mask the ringing.