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 tends to get worse at night for the majority of the millions of individuals in the US that experience it. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom noise due to some medical disorder like hearing loss, it isn’t an outside sound. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder at night.

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

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just compounds the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. It sounds like air-raid sirens are going off in your ears but the person sleeping right beside you can’t hear it at all.

Tinnitus is a sign that something is not right, not a disorder by itself. Substantial hearing loss is usually the root of this disorder. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. People who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so slowly. Your hearing is changing if you start to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

At this time medical scientists and doctors are still uncertain of exactly what causes tinnitus. It might be a symptom of a number of medical problems including damage to the inner ear. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from delivering electrical messages to the brain. These electrical signals are how the brain translates sound into something it can clearly comprehend like a car horn or somebody talking.

The present theory regarding 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 in that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not getting.

When it comes to tinnitus, that would clarify some 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 worse 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 hears very 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.

Abruptly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain increases in response. It only knows one thing to do when faced with complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Hallucinations, like phantom sounds, are frequently the result of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems louder. Producing sound may be the remedy for individuals who can’t sleep because of that annoying ringing in the ear.

Generating noise at night

A fan running is often enough to decrease tinnitus symptoms for many people. Just the noise of the motor is enough to reduce the ringing.

But, there are also devices designed to help individuals with tinnitus get to sleep. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to leave a TV on, it may be distracting, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re drinking too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. 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.