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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 known as tinnitus then you most likely know that it often gets worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But why would this be? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears isn’t a real noise but a side-effect of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Naturally, knowing what it is won’t explain why you have this buzzing, ringing, or whooshing noise more frequently during the night.

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

What is tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not an actual sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is the case. It’s a sound no one else is able to hear. 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 wrong, not a condition by itself. Substantial hearing loss is normally at the base of this condition. Tinnitus is often the first indication that hearing loss is Taking hold. People with hearing loss frequently don’t notice their condition until the tinnitus symptoms start 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?

Presently medical scientists and doctors are still unsure of exactly what triggers tinnitus. It might be a symptom of a number of medical issues including inner ear damage. 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 delivering electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into recognizable sounds.

The absence of sound is the base of the current hypothesis. Your brain will begin to compensate for information that it’s not getting because of hearing loss. It tries to compensate for sound that it’s not receiving.

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

Why are tinnitus sounds worse at night?

You may not even notice it, but your ear receives some sounds during the day. It hears very faintly the music or the TV playing in the other room. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but that all goes quiet during the night when you try to fall asleep.

All of a sudden, the brain becomes confused as it searches for sound to process. It only knows one response when faced with complete silence – generate noise even if it’s not real. Sensory deprivation has been shown to cause hallucinations as the brain tries to insert information, like auditory input, into a place where there isn’t any.

In other words, it’s too quiet at night so your tinnitus seems worse. Creating sound might be the remedy for people who can’t sleep due to that aggravating ringing in the ear.

How to generate noise at night

For some individuals dealing with tinnitus, all they require 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 exclusively made to reduce tinnitus sounds. Environmental sounds, like ocean waves or rain, are generated by these “white noise machines”. If you were to leave a TV on, it might be disruptive, but white noise machines generate soothing sounds that you can sleep through. Your smartphone also has the capability to download apps that will play soothing sounds.

Can anything else make tinnitus symptoms louder?

Lack of sound isn’t the only thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. For instance, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before you go to bed, that could be a contributing factor. Other things, like high blood pressure and stress can also be a contributing factor. If adding sound into your nighttime regimen doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to find out about treatment options by scheduling an appointment with us today.


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.