Does Acupuncture Help With Tinnitus?
Acupuncture for Tinnitus
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) defines tinnitus as “the perception of sound when no external noise is present”.
It is the often inconvenient and disorienting ringing, buzzing, whistling, or clicking sound – even music in some rare cases – that is perceived inside the ears, and that can be heard by no one else besides the person affected.
ATA also cites data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control in its 2011-12 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that shows over 45 million Americans are afflicted by this condition at some level. Of this number, about 20 million suffer from chronic tinnitus, while about 2 million are seriously afflicted to the extent that debilitates them and significantly affects the quality of life.
Depending on its intensity, tinnitus may have a significant level of impact on the patients. Weakening and loss of hearing, anxiety, anger and depression are some of the undesirable by-products of tinnitus, and may inhibit the patients from leading a robust, productive life.
Unfortunately, tinnitus is one of the medical conditions that have escaped a definitive medical cure till date.
As such, there is no ‘tinnitus cure’ available. There are, however, several alternative ways to manage the condition, and reduce the discomfort associated with it.
In this article, we will explore the efficacy of acupuncture in tinnitus management.
Tinnitus and Acupuncture
The absence of any clinical cure has increasingly made patients look for alternative ways to manage and treat tinnitus. Even those patients that are undergoing conventional therapies, and yet fail to see any tangible results feel encouraged to look for alternative treatments for tinnitus.
Acupuncture has been gaining rapid popularity as a way to manage and treat the affliction. There are a huge number of enquiries from people that are looking to compliment their existing therapies, or even get rid of their current treatments in favor of acupuncture.
Can Acupuncture Help in Tinnitus?
Medical science has been unable to discover a successful cure, or even a foolproof way to manage all the cases of tinnitus.
However, there have been a lot of scientific tests to establish the efficacy of acupuncture in treatment and management of tinnitus. While the scientific community has yet to agree in this regard, there is a lot of empirical evidence that suggests that acupuncture actually works.
Indeed, several research tests have also established the success of acupuncture in managing and containing the problem of tinnitus.
For example, a 2005 test to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture for tinnitus immediate relief concluded that there is a significant correlation between acupuncture treatment and tinnitus relief. In other words, acupuncture can work to provide immediate relief for tinnitus patients.
Another research study conducted in 2006 tested six patients to determine whether acupuncture works for tinnitus. The patients had to undergo 10 acupuncture treatments over a 2-week period, and were later evaluated on criteria like reduction in loudness, pitch, waking hours affected and quality of sleep. This study also concluded that acupuncture may indeed treat tinnitus successfully.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Tinnitus?
It is well-established that tinnitus, in itself, is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying health and wellness issue.
It is from this angle that acupuncture seeks to treat and manage tinnitus. It identifies several causes for tinnitus as follows –
Deficiency of qi:
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), qi is believed to be the essential life force, which can get weakened due to blood loss (due to surgery, accidents, child birth etc), or through deteriorating spleen and stomach functions (indigestion, over-eating etc). The weakening of qi is believed to cause tinnitus.
As per TCM, the kidneys regulate the ears, and any weakening of kidneys can result in several ear related issues, including tinnitus. Kidneys can weaken dues to aging, chronic fatigue, unbalanced sexual life etc.
In TCM, phlegm results from retention in body fluids. Excessive phlegm can block the flow of clear qi to the head, and may transform into fire that may block the ears. This type of tinnitus is more serious, and produces a loud sound.
Liver qi stagnation
This type of tinnitus is usually found in persons that are vulnerable to stress, bad mood, or have suffered mental trauma. This leads to stagnation in the liver qi, resulting in a fire that rises to the ears. This tinnitus is accompanied by anger issues and sleep disorders.
Acupuncture works by stimulating certain points, meridians and channels in the body. The practitioners of acupuncture believe that stimulating these specific points will lead to rebalance the qi (pronounce chi, or the essential life force), and attack the problem at its source. So, you treat the symptoms as well as the source of the ailment.
In conventional medical terms, the main elements of an acupuncture treatment for tinnitus will involve acting on –
- the cochlear system,
- brain chemistry (by enhancing neuropeptide Y level, and correspondingly reducing serotonin levels),
- vascular and immune system (to reduce inflammation)
- local circulation (to reduce swelling)
The acupuncture expert will identify the suitable treatment points spread over the body to complete the above actions, and such actions are believed to treat the underlying issues that cause tinnitus.
Your Mileage May Vary
If you are suffering from tinnitus, and considering an alternative treatment, acupuncture may well provide you relief. However, individual response to acupuncture varies widely – since different people respond differently to treatment.
It is also important to note the possible side effects of acupuncture – so always make an informed decision.