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Acupuncture for Hearing Loss & Tinnitus: Does it Really Work?

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

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Acupuncture is trendy right now in terms of treating conditions like hearing loss and tinnitus. Not everyone believes that Tinnitus is curable through acupuncture, but there are definitely some people who swear by it. What this means is that it could make sense to try it out if nothing else is working for you, however, it may also make sense to at least try more conventional means of treating these maladies first as well. Here’s a little bit of information on all of these subjects, including how they relate one to the other.

Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a condition that’s often permanent. There are at least two major ways that hearing loss tends to happen, with the added caveat that sometimes it’s a mix of these two types. One type includes hearing loss that occurs because of damage of some kind being done to the tiny hairs in the ear that detect sound and then send this information to your brain. These hairs can be damaged for many reasons, including simply age, or a head injury, or hearing noises that are too loud, for example. The second kind involves damage to the auditory nerve and everything connected to it. So, in other words, either you are physically prevented from hearing something, or there’s a break in your body’s communication system so that you can’t actually process the sound.

Understanding Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition where you hear sounds that aren’t there due to a problem with your auditory nerve. This could sound like a ringing in your ear, it could be a buzz, it could be a sort of clicking or humming, it could be anything really. The problem is that the sound can keep going for hours or even days at a time, and interrupt absolutely everything that you do. It can make it hard to sleep, it can make it hard to concentrate, it can make it hard for you to do just about anything. That’s why it’s a potentially serious condition in terms of quality of life.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is from Traditional Chinese Medicine. The idea is that little needles are used to help activate the qi energy in the body, a central tenant in traditional Chinese medicine. In particular, the belief is that the needles can be inserted into key points of the ear, helping to bring the body back into alignment to relieve problems like hearing loss or Tinnitus. The belief here is that the body can have a lack of certain kinds of energy and too much of other kinds. It’s these imbalances throughout the body that cause the problems, and the needles can control the flow of energy in order to restore the balance and stop the problems.

Does Acupuncture Actually Help Tinnitus and Improve Hearing?

The studies on this matter from actual scientific research are a bit mixed. In general, there’s not a lot of conclusive evidence to suggest that this is the case. Some studies show a mix of some people gaining some help from the practice, reducing their Tinnitus and improving their hearing. IN a few rare cases there are claims it helped cure deafness altogether. However, other studies show that the practice didn’t do much at all. The jury is still out, in other words.

Seeking Treatment

In general, if you need help with hearing loss or tinnitus, the best thing to do is visit your traditional Western doctor. They will be able to help you out the best with proven methods that aren’t the slightest bit controversial. This will generally include have you come in and take a test to check what’s going on with your hearing in a general sense. After the testing, which will likely include different types of tones, they will likely outfit you with a hearing aid if it’s determined that you have some kind of hearing loss. In terms of tinnitus, they will have options to help you with that particular problem as well, so that you’re covered in both situations and you can get your hearing back to normal.