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 individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical disorder 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 fairly straightforward. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this extremely common medical issue.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus is an indication that something is wrong, not a disorder by itself. It is usually linked to substantial hearing loss. 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 notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it develops so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it happens. It may be a symptom of numerous medical problems including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there’s damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical signals to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or somebody talking.

The current hypothesis pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to compensate for signals that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

That would clarify a few things when it comes to tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: minor infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It will faintly hear sounds coming from a different room or around the corner. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with complete silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, like 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. Producing sound might be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

A fan running is frequently enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many individuals. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can trigger 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 learn about treatment solutions by scheduling 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.


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