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 people in the U.S. dealing with a medical disorder called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder during the night.

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

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing 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 an indication that something is wrong, not a condition on its own. It is usually associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. People with hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so gradually. 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 biggest conundrums and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it happens. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells made to vibrate in response to sound waves. Often, when these little hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t efficiently send signals to the brain, tinnitus symptoms happen. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The present theory pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It attempts to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.

That would explain some things about tinnitus. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be the reason why the symptoms get worse at night sometimes.

Why are tinnitus sounds louder at night?

You might not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. 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 stops at night when you try to go to sleep.

All of a sudden, the brain is thrown into confusion as it searches for sound to process. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been shown to trigger hallucinations as the brain tries 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 worse. If you’re having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the solution.

Generating noise at night

For some people dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

But, there are also devices made to help those with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do. Alternatively, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If adding sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn 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.