Why is the Ringing 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 tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep. But what’s the reason for this? The buzzing or ringing in one or both ears is not an actual noise but a complication of a medical problem like hearing loss, either lasting or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is won’t 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 discover a little more about this all-too-common condition.

What is tinnitus?

For the majority of individuals, tinnitus isn’t an actual sound, but this fact just compounds the confusion. It’s a noise no one else is able to hear. Your partner lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even though it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus by itself isn’t a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is generally associated with substantial hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first indication they get that their hearing is at risk. Individuals who have hearing loss often don’t recognize their condition until the tinnitus symptoms begin because it develops so gradually. Your hearing is changing if you begin to hear these noises, and they’re alerting you of those changes.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical science’s biggest mysteries and doctors don’t have a clear comprehension of why it occurs. It might be a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear has many tiny hair cells designed to vibrate in response to sound waves. Tinnitus can indicate there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from transmitting electrical messages to the brain. Your brain converts these electrical signals into identifiable sounds.

The absence of sound is the base of the current theory. The brain remains on the alert to receive these messages, so when they don’t arrive, it fills that space with the phantom sound of tinnitus. It gets perplexed by the lack of input from the ear and tries to compensate for it.

That would clarify a few things regarding tinnitus. Why it can be caused by so many medical conditions, like 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 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 somewhere close by. But during the night, when you’re trying to sleep, it gets really quiet.

Suddenly, all the sound fades away and the level of confusion in the brain rises in response. When faced with complete silence, it resorts to creating its own internal sounds. Hallucinations, including phantom sounds, are frequently the outcome of sensory deprivation as the brain tries to create input where there isn’t any.

In other words, your tinnitus might get worse at night because it’s so quiet. Producing sound may be the solution for individuals who can’t sleep because of that aggravating ringing in the ear.

How to produce noise at night

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

But you can also get devices that are exclusively made to lessen tinnitus sounds. White noise machines simulate nature sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like keeping the TV on may do. Instead, you could try an app that plays calming sounds from your smartphone.

What else can worsen tinnitus symptoms?

Your tinnitus symptoms can be worsened by other things besides lack of sound. For example, if you’re indulging in too much alcohol before bed, that could contribute to tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus also tends to become severe if you’re stressed out and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, also, like high blood pressure. Contact us for an appointment if these suggestions aren’t helping or if you’re feeling dizzy when your tinnitus symptoms are active.

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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.

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