Why is the Buzzing 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 individuals in the U.S. suffering from a medical condition called tinnitus then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But why should this be? The ringing or buzzing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. But none of that information can give a reason why this ringing gets louder during the night.

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

Tinnitus, what is it?

To say tinnitus isn’t a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. The person 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 is an indication that something is not right, not a condition by itself. Substantial hearing loss is generally the root of this condition. Tinnitus is frequently the first indication that hearing loss is setting in. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it progresses so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re warning you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s greatest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear understanding of why it occurs. It may be a symptom of a number of medical issues including damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hair cells inside of your ears that vibrate in response to sound. Tinnitus can indicate there’s 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 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 attempts to compensate for input that it’s not receiving.

That would clarify a few things regarding tinnitus. For one, why it’s a symptom of so many different illnesses that affect the ear: mild infections, concussions, and age-related hearing loss. It also tells you something about why the ringing gets worse at night for some people.

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear receives some sounds during the day whether you recognize 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 really quiet.

Abruptly, 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 complete silence – create noise even if it isn’t real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, including auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. If you are having a difficult time sleeping because your tinnitus symptoms are so loud, creating some noise may be the solution.

Creating noise at night

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

But you can also buy devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines reproduce environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. If you were to keep a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines produce calming sounds that you can sleep through. Instead, you could go with 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 bring about an upsurge in your tinnitus. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also contribute to your symptoms. Contact us for an appointment if these tips aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.


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.