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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Miller

Acupuncture for Tinnitus

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is one of those frustrating conditions that affects a large and varied group of people. While it tends to occur in older populations, it can strike in middle age or even after some kind of head trauma. Obviously, there is a higher incidence of tinnitus (and associated hearing loss) in those who work around loud machinery or music. It can also take on various forms of intensity, being a nuisance condition for some, and downright maddening for others. Unfortunately, many people find themselves resigned to living with tinnitus.

There are few treatment options for tinnitus, and often anti-anxiety drugs are prescribed for the distress of the condition. Alternative therapies for tinnitus are a mixed bag, although I’ve had some clinical success with it. The favorable results have been everything from a complete cessation of the ringing (in one case, after only 2 treatments!) to a few patients who experienced diminished ringing. With acupuncture, as with other modalities, it can be hard to know which patients are likely to respond well.

From a theory standpoint, tinnitus makes much sense to the Chinese medicine practitioner. As we age, there’s a diminishment of the body’s vitality (our intrinsic Qi). This deep reserve of Qi is correlated to the Kidney energy in acupuncture, and the Kidneys are represented in the tissues by the ears...which even look a bit like kidneys! So the eventual decline of Kidney Qi can often result in changes and degradation of the functions of the ear. Often by using points which tonify the Kidneys you can achieve some success with tinnitus.

This is certainly the strategy with older patients, and it’s worth noting that younger patients may have a more excess-type tinnitus, which benefits from reducing internal heat, often caused by stress and overwork. The Gall Bladder channel surrounds the ear, and it can be used to pacify the up-flaring of heat that results from more excess conditions. Either way, stress and unremitting work can result in excess diseases, but will definitely tax the body’s reserves over time, causing deficiency and injury to the Kidney Qi.

But before that point, it’s worth trying acupuncture and Chinese herbs for tinnitus -- and the earlier the better. There may in fact be a total cure, or substantial relief from this annoying problem...but it beats anti-anxiety meds every time!

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