Tinnitus: Worsening in Quiet Environments

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
Tinnitus: Worsening in Quiet Environments

Living with tinnitus can cause many challenges in daily life, especially when it seems to intensify in quiet environments. For many individuals, the onset of tinnitus symptoms during moments of silence can be particularly distressing.

In this article, we'll explain what causes tinnitus to worsen in quiet environments, share more about this condition, and how OTC hearing aids could potentially help.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition that causes buzzing or ringing in either both ears or just one ear. The intensity can vary, with some people experiencing a faint background hum and others hearing a persistent, intrusive ringing.

Tinnitus, often described as a ringing or buzzing in the ears, can be a challenging condition to manage. Unlike physical discomfort such as knee pain, which can often be pinpointed and treated directly, tinnitus is a complex auditory issue that can be particularly troublesome in quiet environments. While knee pain might be alleviated by rest or specific movements, tinnitus sufferers often find that silence exacerbates their symptoms, making it difficult to relax or sleep.

Person Having Hearing issues
Potential Causes of Tinnitus

There are several possible causes of tinnitus, including:

  • Consistent noise exposure (including to loud noises)
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Earwax buildup
  • Ear infections or injuries
  • Medications
  • Underlying health conditions (hypertension, TMJ, or Meniere's disease)
  • Stress or anxiety

A visit to a hearing healthcare professional can help determine the exact cause.

Why Does Tinnitus Become Worse in a Quiet Environment?

One of the main symptoms of tinnitus is that the ringing or buzzing sound can become exacerbated in quiet environments. Silence tends to amplify internal bodily sounds, making the ringing or buzzing much more noticeable. 

Additionally, in the absence of external noise, the brain might hyperfocus on the internal noise generated by tinnitus, heightening its perceived intensity. Quiet environments also lack the masking effect of ambient noise, which typically helps to camouflage tinnitus and provide relief for people suffering from the condition. As a result, individuals with tinnitus might experience increased discomfort and distress when confronted with silence.

Environmental Noise and Tinnitus

It's not only quiet environments that can make tinnitus worsen. Environmental noise and outdoor noise, including traffic noise and air traffic, can potentially exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. Sometimes high levels of noise pollution can increase the risk of developing tinnitus.

Prolonged exposure to loud noise can also damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss and the onset of tinnitus.

Additional Symptoms of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can create many uncomfortable symptoms which can be continuous or intermittent, including:

  • Ringing in the ears (or just one ear)
  • Buzzing or hissing sounds in one or both ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Ear discomfort
Can Tinnitus Affect Mental Health?

If left untreated, tinnitus can significantly impact mental health. This is because the constant presence of uncontrollable noise can contribute to heightened stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.

Some people might also find themselves avoiding quiet spaces, where the absence of ambient noise amplifies the perceived intensity of the ringing or buzzing sounds. This can lead to individuals isolating themselves from others, potentially impacting their mental well-being.

Woman having headache
Strategies for Managing Tinnitus in Quiet Environments

While complete silence might exacerbate tinnitus symptoms, there are many strategies that individuals can use to reduce their discomfort and improve their quality of life. This includes:

  • Using white noise machines or fans to mask the sounds of tinnitus
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Speaking with a hearing healthcare professional
  • Potentially using OTC hearing aids

For those who find relief in wearing earplugs, it's important to use them wisely and avoid overexposure to high noise levels, which can worsen hearing loss and tinnitus.

Could Tinnitus Be a Sign of Hearing Loss?

While tinnitus can have many potential causes, it can sometimes indicate either mild to moderate hearing loss or severe hearing loss. If you notice a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both of your ears, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional. They can conduct a medical evaluation and a series of hearing tests to determine the cause of your tinnitus.

Symptoms of Perceived Mild To Moderate Hearing Loss

You might have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss if you experience any of the below:

  • Trouble hearing conversations in noisy places and with a lot of background noise or loud sounds
  • Feeling tired from listening
  • Finding it difficult to follow conversations and hear people in group settings
  • Difficulty hearing someone on the phone
  • Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, even if others say that it’s loud

If you experience the above symptoms, you might benefit from OTC hearing aids. They don’t require a prescription or a visit to a hearing healthcare professional.

Symptoms of Severe Hearing Loss

You might have severe hearing loss if you have the below symptoms:

  • Difficulty hearing conversations
  • Unable to hear sounds or finding it very difficult to hear sounds, including loud noises (even in quiet environments)
  • You might find yourself reading lips as a result of your hearing loss

If you think you might have severe hearing loss, you should consider scheduling a consultation with a hearing healthcare professional.

OTC Hearing Aids Might Help with Tinnitus

If your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss and your symptoms are mild to moderate, OTC hearing aids could potentially help.

Many OTC hearing aids come with various ear dome sizes, ensuring you get the best fit for your ears. They also have several volume settings, making it possible to adjust the volume as needed throughout the day or week. OTC hearing aids are also often rechargeable, so you don't need to worry about purchasing batteries. Simply place the hearing aids on their charging dock at the end of each day and charge them overnight.

OTC Hearing Aids For Perceived Mild To Moderate Hearing Loss

Many people with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss have found it beneficial to wear hearing aids that are OTC, as they can be a great solution for improving hearing. These FDA-regulated devices don't need a prescription, hearing exam, or doctor's appointment. You can try them in the comfort of your home, and you can adjust the volume to suit your specific needs. With Nano OTC hearing aids, you simply pick the best dome size for your ears, turn them on, and put them in. Keep in mind it might take several days or weeks for your ears and brain to get used to them, which is why Nano OTC Hearing Aids comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee and free 24/7 lifetime support.

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