At Night, the Ringing in my Ears Seems Louder

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. suffering from a medical condition known as tinnitus then you most likely 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 caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.

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

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off 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 wrong. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this condition. Tinnitus is often 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 warn you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It may be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical issues. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells made to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or a person talking.

The present theory regarding tinnitus is about the absence of sound. Your brain will start to compensate for signals that it’s waiting for 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 caused by so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

You might not even detect it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to go to sleep.

Abruptly, all the sound disappears and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where none exists.

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

How to generate noise at night

For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines replicate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme 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 introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to learn about treatment options 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.