At Night, the Ringing in my Ears Seems Louder

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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

The reality is more common sense than you probably think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus isn’t an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. 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 isn’t a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It could be a symptom of a number of medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical signals to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person speaking.

The present hypothesis regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to fill in for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like 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 may not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops at night when you try to go to sleep.

Abruptly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with complete silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to induce hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the fan motor.

But, there are also devices made to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Alternatively, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment solutions by scheduling an appointment with us right away.


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.