At Night, the Buzzing 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 individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical condition called tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears isn’t an actual noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently at night.

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

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t a real sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right near you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a condition by itself. It is generally linked to significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is frequently the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. People who have hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these sounds, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it happens. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these little hairs get damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. Why it can be a result of so many medical conditions, such as age-related hearing loss, high blood pressure, and concussions, to begin with. That could also be why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you realize it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing somewhere close by. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet at night when you try to fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one thing to do when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to cause hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

How to produce noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. The volume of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the motor of the fan.

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 might do. Your smartphone also has the ability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can trigger an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to worsen if you’re under stress and certain medical problems can result in 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.