At Night, the Buzzing in my Ears Seems Worse

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

Tinnitus often gets worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder during the night.

The real reason is fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For most people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a sound no one else can hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus alone isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this condition. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise is a warning flag to notify you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may be a symptom of a number of medical problems including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or somebody speaking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That could also be the reason why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. When faced with total silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are often the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to produce input where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. The soft sound soothes the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could go with an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can result in a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime routine 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.