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

In hearing health, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.
Latest posts by Laurie Duffy, M.S. (see all)

Hearing loss affects 466 million people worldwide and yet there is no cure for most cases. Hearing loss from old age or exposure to harmful noise is referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. This hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs or nerves in the inner ear responsible for transmitting sound information to the brain become damaged, impeding hearing. There is no proven way as of yet, to reverse sensorineural hearing loss, only treatments like hearing aids and cochlear implants. While western medicine still seeks ways to repair the inner ear suffering from sensorineural hearing loss, some practitioners claim that acupuncture, a key component of Chinese medicine can aid in the restoration of some hearing loss and tinnitus. How valid are these claims?

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient practice dating back as far as 100 B.C in China, involving the insertion of very thin needles into your skin at specific points on your body in order to relieve pain, stimulate the immune system and reduce stress. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is used to balance the flow of energy, referred to as Qi (chee). By inserting needles into specific points along pathways in your body, acupuncturists strive to put your body back in balance using Qi. While western medicine seeks to find validity in these claims many physicians are permitted to practice acupuncture within the scope of their medical practices. In recent decades, acupuncture treatment has become increasingly integrated with conventional medical care. Western practitioners believe acupuncture works by stimulating nerves, muscles and connective tissue when pressure points are “needled”. Many believe that these pressure points when stimulated can instigate the nervous system, releasing chemicals to the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones stimulate the body’s natural healing and pain relief.

When is Acupuncture Used? 

Acupuncture is utilized to aid in the ease of pain, stress, many conditions and several diseases. It is amazing the wide range of ailments that acupuncture claims it can help including nausea due to chemotherapy, muscle tension, dental pain, menstrual cramping, birthing labor, sciatica and respiratory disorders. Many practitioners also claim that acupuncture can help improve conditions connected to hearing loss.

Can Acupuncture Help with Hearing Loss?

There are reports dating as far as the 1940’s, which claim to treat hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus using acupuncture. Many studies have found acupuncture to have some success to help lessen hearing loss but how exactly does this work? Researchers hypothesize that stimulating Qi could stimulate the healthy hair cells of the inner ear by enhancing blood circulation of the cochlea, and stimulating the auditory cortex.

A study published in the February 2015 issue of International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine reviewed 12 studies to examine “the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating sensorineural hearing loss.” The study concluded that acupuncture could improve some sensorineural hearing loss in some cases, especially when combined with medication. However skeptics claim research done lacks clinical evidence due to the small size of the studies and the discrepancies between U.S and Chinese medical practices.

Acupuncture for Tinnitus

To get more clarity on the validity of the claims that acupuncture can help alleviate tinnitus the British Tinnitus Association reviewed research on the case and concluded, “there is no evidence that this treatment is effective.” While the validity of reducing tinnitus symptoms using acupuncture is still not proven by western medicine, many do admit that acupuncture has been proven to lessen anxiety.  Anxiety and stress are some of the conditions that can make tinnitus more extreme. It is a vicious cycle, where tinnitus can make stress worse, and stress makes tinnitus have a more extreme effect. When stress can be lessened using acupuncture it can also lessen the severity of tinnitus.

Treatment for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

That said, the best treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus currently is the use of hearing aids. If you are considering treating your hearing loss or tinnitus, contact us today to learn more about comprehensive hearing health services and top of the line hearing devices.