Why is the Ringing in my Ears Worse at Night?

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

If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we need to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most individuals, 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 even though it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is typically gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom sound is a warning flag to signal you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or someone talking.

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

That would clarify some things about tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that affect the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

You may not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet during the night when you try to go to sleep.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. If you’re having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise might be the answer.

How to create noise at night

For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. The volume of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the fan motor.

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be amplified by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If adding sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by making an appointment with us today.


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.