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 the majority of the millions of people in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an external sound. Of course, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more often at night.

The reality is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus gets louder as you try to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical problem.

What is tinnitus?

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

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is wrong. Substantial hearing loss is usually at the base of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. Individuals who have hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start because it develops so gradually. This phantom noise is a warning flag to notify 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 could be a symptom of a number of medical issues including damage to the inner ear. 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 delivering electrical signals to the brain. These electrical messages are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly interpret like a car horn or a person talking.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, like age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some individuals.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder 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 pick up sounds coming from another 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 vanishes and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to making its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are often the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

A fan running is frequently enough to reduce tinnitus symptoms for many people. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive 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?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are present.


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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