At Night, the Ringing in my Ears Seems Worse

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 disorder known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are trying to go to sleep. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.

The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you attempt to sleep, you need to know the hows and whys of this really common medical issue.

Tinnitus, what is it?

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

Tinnitus is a sign that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this condition. Tinnitus is frequently 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 signal you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a strong comprehension of why it occurs. It could be a symptom of numerous medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells made to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical signals to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.

The absence of sound is the basis of the current theory. Your brain will begin to fill in for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

That would explain some things about tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, for starters. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

You might not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very 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 fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to producing its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

How to generate noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But you can also buy devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines create calming sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an increase in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can result in a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment options 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.