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 often gets worse at night for most of the millions of individuals in the US that suffer with it. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom sound due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. Naturally, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

The real reason is pretty straightforward. To know why your tinnitus gets louder 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 people, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just adds to the confusion. The person with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or disorder, but an indication that something else is happening. It is generally associated with significant hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. 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 strong understanding of why it happens. It may be a symptom of numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. The inner ear has lots of tiny hair cells made to move in response to sound waves. Sometimes, when these tiny hairs become damaged to the point that they can’t effectively send messages to the brain, tinnitus symptoms occur. These electrical signals are how the brain converts sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or a person speaking.

The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. Your brain will start to compensate for information that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain a few things. 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 people.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear picks up some sounds during the day whether you know 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 stops during the night when you try to go to sleep.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it listens for sound to process. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown 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’re having a hard time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise might be the answer.

How to generate noise at night

For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is decreased just by the sound of the fan motor.

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to decrease tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be distracting, but white noise machines produce soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If adding sound into your nighttime program doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment options by making an appointment with us today.


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.