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.

If you are one of the millions of people in the U.S. suffering from a medical disorder called tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are attempting to go to sleep. But why would this be? The ringing is a phantom noise caused by some medical condition like hearing loss, it’s not an outside sound. But none of that information can give an explanation as to why this ringing gets louder at night.

The real reason is fairly simple. But first, we have to discover a little more about this all-too-common disorder.

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. The person dealing with tinnitus can hear the sound but nobody else can. Your partner sleeping next to you in bed can’t hear it although it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus by itself is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is happening. It is typically linked to significant hearing loss. Tinnitus is often the first sign that hearing loss is setting in. Hearing loss is often gradual, so they don’t notice it until that ringing or buzzing begins. This phantom noise is a warning flag to notify you of a change in your hearing.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it happens. It could be a symptom of inner ear damage or numerous other possible medical issues. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that move in response to sound. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The present theory pertaining to tinnitus has to do with the absence of sound. Your brain will start to compensate for signals that it’s waiting for because of hearing loss. It attempts to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

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, to begin with. 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 receives some sounds during the day whether you know it or not. It hears really faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets very 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 making its own internal sounds. Sensory deprivation has been demonstrated to induce hallucinations as the brain attempts to insert information, such as auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

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

Generating noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are specifically made to decrease tinnitus sounds. Environmental 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 keeping the TV on might do. As an alternative, you could try an app that plays soothing sounds from your smartphone.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms worse?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. Too much alcohol before bed can contribute to more severe tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to get worse if you’re under stress and certain medical issues can trigger a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is present, 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. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.