Why is the Buzzing in my Ears Louder at Night?

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 condition called tinnitus then you probably know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a side-effect of a medical problem like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, 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 simple. But first, we have to learn a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but no one else can. Your partner sleeping 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 a sign that something else is happening. It is usually linked to significant hearing loss. For a lot of people, tinnitus is the first sign 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. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Right now medical scientists and doctors are still not sure of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of inner ear damage or a number of other possible medical conditions. There are very small hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. 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 pertaining to tinnitus is about the absence of sound. The brain stays on the alert to get these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets confused by the lack of feedback from the ear and attempts to compensate for it.

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, for starters. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets louder at night for some individuals.

Why does tinnitus get worse at night?

You may not even recognize it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It will faintly pick up sounds coming from another room or around the corner. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all stops during the night when you try to fall asleep.

Suddenly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain goes up in response. It only knows one response when faced with total silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain attempts to create input where none exists.

In other words, your tinnitus might get louder at night because it’s so quiet. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, producing some noise might be the solution.

Generating noise at night

For some individuals suffering from tinnitus, all they require is a fan running in the background. Just the sound of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But, there are also devices designed to help people who have tinnitus get to sleep. Natural sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are produced by these “white noise machines”. If you were to keep a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines produce calming 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 amplified by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical issues can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Give us a call for an appointment if these suggestions 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.