Why is the Buzzing in my Ears Worse at Night?

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

Tinnitus tends to get worse at night for most of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t clarify why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often during the night.

The truth is more common sense than you probably think. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you attempt to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this extremely common medical problem.

Tinnitus, what is it?

For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. It’s a noise no one else can hear. 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 is an indication that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. It is generally linked to substantial hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these sounds, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or somebody speaking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. The brain stays on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom noise of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different conditions that affect 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 does tinnitus get louder at night?

You may not even realize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – create 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 there isn’t any.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Creating sound may be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that irritating ringing in the ear.

Creating noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated 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. Instead, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like 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 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.