At Night, the Ringing in my Ears Seems Worse

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 experience it. But what’s the reason for this? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an external sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing becomes louder at night.

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

Tinnitus, what is it?

For most individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. It sounds like air-raid sirens are ringing in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or disorder, but a sign that something else is happening. It is typically associated with substantial hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they don’t detect it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It may 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 can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain translates these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

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

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.

Why does tinnitus get louder at night?

You may not even recognize it, but your ear is picking up some sounds during the day. It will faintly hear sounds coming from another room or around the corner. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very quiet.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one thing to do when confronted with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to induce hallucinations as the brain tries 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 worse. Producing sound might be the remedy for those who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.

Creating noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. The loudness of the ringing is lowered just by the sound of the fan motor.

But, there are also devices made to help individuals who have tinnitus get to sleep. Natural 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 may do. As an alternative, you could go with an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be exacerbated by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, including high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. If introducing sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions by making 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.

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