Hearing loss leads as the third most common illness in the United States amongst people 65 and older. The most common type of hearing loss is classified as sensorineural and is often caused by age related or noise induced hearing loss, ototoxic medications and head trauma. A condition that often accompanies hearing loss is tinnitus, which manifests itself as a buzzing, ringing sound with no external source that can become quite frustrating when searching for true silence. Tinnitus can cause the afflicted to have many sleepless nights and anxiety.
Scientists have been searching for years to reverse hearing loss and tinnitus, though currently there are only treatments to help with hearing loss but no actual cure. While using hearing aids are the most common treatment for both conditions many have looked to eastern medicine for assistance. Many have adopted acupuncture, a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, for it’s restorative properties of hearing loss and tinnitus, but does it actually work?
What is acupuncture?
First developed in China as far back as 100 B.C, acupuncture is a practice that entails stimulating certain points on the body, most often with a needle inserted into the tiny pores of your skin, to alleviate pain or to aid with various health conditions. When specific acupuncture points are needled, it’s claimed that the nervous system is stimulated, releasing chemicals from muscles, spinal cord and the brain. It is believed that this release allows a chain reaction releasing associated chemicals and hormones, which can stimulate the body’s natural process of healing. While Studies conducted by scientists in Europe and the United States have found that acupuncture is moderately successful in treating pain and nausea many are resistant to admit the healing properties of this ancient practice.
Does Acupuncture Work?
There have been numerous clinical studies exploring the benefits of acupuncture. Many have found that it successfully treats conditions ranging from back pain and neck pain, to nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and infertility. One of the largest studies to date on acupuncture and chronic pain published in October 2012 found that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain making it a valid treatment in the eyes of western medicine though the extent of success is still up for debate. The author of the studies wrote that “[s]ignificant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo” however added as a disclaimer “these differences are relatively modest.”
Acupuncture as a Treatment for Hearing Loss
Acupuncture has been found to improve hearing in those dealing with hearing loss according to research published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. The research found acupuncture to be successful specifically for sensorineural deafness due to auditory nerve damage. The researcher, Jiang et al., states that acupuncture “can significantly improve the hearing of patients with nerve deafness, and the efficacy of acupuncture in combination with medication is superior to medication alone.”
While this and many studies yielded positive results in the use of acupuncture in conjunction with medication many researchers seek to debunk these studies. Using
Clinical evidence, the February 2015 issue of International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine reviewed 12 studies to determine “the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating sensorineural hearing loss.” While this review agreed that sensorineural hearing loss could be improved with the use of acupuncture in conjunction with medication, many of the studies lacked large enough study groups, calling for more research on the matter.
Tinnitus and Acupuncture
The British Tinnitus Association reviewed current research on acupuncture to treat tinnitus and found, while acupuncture was effective in treating anxiety and stress and found that there was no proof that it relieved the effects of tinnitus. The fact that anxiety can be treated by acupuncture is not something to be ignored for those with tinnitus, as a major cause for instigating tinnitus is stress. When stress can be released, tinnitus symptoms are also lessened.
Should you Try Acupuncture?
While western medicine claims further research must be done Chinese medicine practitioners have been using acupuncture to treat hearing loss for centuries. The bottom line is that while acupuncture can not cure hearing loss it has been proven to help. If you do try acupuncture, you might find some relief and it can’t hurt you to try in concert with hearing aids.