Why is the Ringing 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 the majority 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 external sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing becomes louder at night.

The real reason is pretty simple. But first, we need to learn a little more about this all-too-common condition.

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus isn’t an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most individuals, that is the case. The person dealing 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 isn’t a disease or condition, but an indication that something else is wrong. It is generally linked to significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is in jeopardy. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom sound is a warning flag to notify you of a change in your hearing.

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 numerous medical issues including inner ear damage. 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 signals to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The present hypothesis regarding tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. The brain remains on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t come, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of feedback from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would explain some things. For starters, why it’s a symptom of so many different ailments that impact the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. That may also be why the symptoms get louder at night sometimes.

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

Unless you are significantly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you recognize it or not. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But at night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

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. Hallucinations, such as phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where none exists.

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

Producing noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to reduce tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft sound calms the tinnitus but isn’t disruptive enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on may do. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play calming sounds.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an increase in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can lead to more extreme tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like 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 active, it’s time to learn about treatment solutions 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.

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