Tinnitus is a common condition that affects the ear. It is not a disease but rather a symptom of some type of underlying health condition.
There is currently no known cure for tinnitus, leaving patients to seek various types of treatment, including acupuncture, to alleviate the symptoms.
Acupuncture for tinnitus is a non-traditional treatment used to help manage and reduce the symptoms of the condition. The use of acupuncture is more or a scientific approach to reducing the discomfort associated with tinnitus.
Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, also called TCM, commonly used to treat pain and other health problems. It is an alternative to traditional treatments that involve medication or surgery.
According to Stop The Ringing.Org, TCM practitioners believe in using needles to stimulate brain nerves to regulate a flow of energy that helps heal the body.
Learning what tinnitus is, its causes, symptoms, and possible treatments can help you decide if acupuncture for tinnitus is the best treatment for you.
Answers to some frequently asked questions about tinnitus are included in this article to help you get a better understanding of the condition and suggested alternative remedies.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is commonly described as a ‘ringing’ sensation in the ear or head that does not come from an external source.
It occurs when something goes wrong with the auditory system, which includes the ear, auditory nerve, and the parts of the brain responsible for processing sounds. This internal sound or ‘noise’ is heard only by the person affected by the condition.
Although you may have experienced a strange sound in their ear, its recurrence is what determines a true case of tinnitus.
In severe cases, the annoying and deeply disturbing sound can affect your quality of life. You may find it difficult to hear, concentrate or even sleep.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), nearly 25 million American or roughly 10 percent of the adult population in the US has experienced tinnitus that lasted at least five minutes in the past year.
About 16 million people seek treatment each year, with one-quarter of them experiencing a disruption in their daily activities.
Tinnitus has various causes and its symptoms may differ depending on the cause. For example, this condition may be due to the use of certain medications. Or it can be early signs of hearing loss due to excessive exposure to noise that damages the eardrum.
Industrial, construction, and factory workers are among those who commonly suffer from noise-induced tinnitus.
- The American Tinnitus Association explains that the condition can be caused by any of the following underlying problems or other diseases or medical conditions: Obstructions in the middle ear (e.g., due to excessive wax, a foreign object, or head congestion)
- Hearing loss (noise-induced, age-related, or due to Meniere’s disease)
- Sinus pressure and barometric trauma (due to damage to the middle ear from the sinus infection or air pressure from flying or water pressure from diving)
- Head and neck trauma (as a result of blood flow issues triggered by head and neck injuries)
- Ototoxic drug or other prescription medications (Ototoxic drug include Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), cancer drugs, and certain antibiotics)
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder (caused by damage to the muscles, cartilage or ligaments in the TMJ)
Types of Tinnitus
The types of tinnitus depending on which part of the hearing system (i.e., the outer ear, inner ear, middle ear, or the brain) is affected.
According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus is generally classified as subjective or objective tinnitus. The condition can produce musical, pulsatile, or low-frequency sounds.
This most common form of the condition stems mainly from excessive exposure to noise. Only the patient hears the sound.
It can be one or multiple sounds that change and could be sensed in one or both ears. It typically lasts for 3-12 months. In some cases, the noise or sound in the ear never stops.
This type of tinnitus is usually caused by issues with a blood vessel or by involuntary muscle contractions. It is described as a regular pulsating sound in rhythm with the heartbeat or blood flow.
Someone else or your doctor can also hear the sound upon careful listening. Objective tinnitus goes away once the underlying condition is treated.
Symptoms come and go without warning. They may occur once in some people but recur in others, and without notice.
The following are common sounds heard in the ear and they may be low or high in frequency:
Because there are so many possible causes of tinnitus, it can be challenging for doctors to single out the root cause in a particular patient.
However, your doctor will do a physical examination of your ear, neck or head. You will be asked questions such as how long the problem started, how loud the noise is, and whether one or both ears are affected.
The initial examination may be followed by a hearing test or imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI scan. After the examination, your doctor may treat any underlying condition that is causing the sound in your ear.
Ear wax may be removed or medication may be prescribed to treat the condition if necessary. Your doctor could also recommend you wear a noise suppression device, such as hearing aids or a device that produces white noise.
Although acupuncture may not be medically recommended, patients have turned to this ancient Chinese technique.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Tinnitus
Acupuncture can be used for the treatment of tinnitus as a stand-alone treatment or in addition to other medical or natural treatments.
While acupuncture cannot cure tinnitus, it may be used to manage the symptoms of the condition.
Even if it cannot stop the noise, the treatment gives patients the ability to cope. These are some of the benefits said to be provided by acupuncture:
Practitioners of TCM claim that acupuncture provides natural relief and healing for the body, particularly for patients with subjective tinnitus. Very fine needles are placed into the skin at strategic parts of the body to activate the healing process.
Acupuncture points for tinnitus involve inserting the needles at meridians or points of the body where blood and energy flow can be stimulated.
According to Medical News Today, these points are found in the muscles and connective tissues. Once stimulated, they can provide a healing effect.
In some cases, electroacupuncture for tinnitus is used instead of conventional acupuncture. The National Center for Biotechnology Information describes electroacupuncture as a modified form of conventional acupuncture that uses electrical impulses to stimulate relief through the needles at the acupoints.
The relaxing effect of acupuncture is said to provide calm amidst the noise in the ear or head. According to the New York Hearing Center, during therapy the “feel good” hormones endorphins and enkephalins are released to help the patient relax and aid the natural process of healing.
Improves Blood Circulation
This natural approach to treating tinnitus may be especially beneficial to patients who persistently hear the noise in their ear or head.
Because the treatment helps improve blood circulation, it can be quite helpful in cases where tinnitus is caused by blood flow problems such as hypertension.
Home Remedies for Tinnitus
You may choose to treat tinnitus naturally at home through changes in diet and lifestyle. These include:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially B12 vitamins, magnesium, and zinc may help relieve tinnitus.
Cutting back on salt, sugar, and bad fats, such as saturated and trans fats, are additional home remedies suggested for treating the condition.
Stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine result in overactivity in the brain that can trigger symptoms of tinnitus.
Quitting habits such as smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee can reduce overstimulation of the brain and provide natural relief.
Despite the lack of scientific proof, it is believed that herbal supplements can provide relief for tinnitus. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, Ginkgo Biloba, ginseng, and Coenzyme Q10 are popularly used at home.
Exercise and Massage
Regular exercise and massage for tinnitus are ways to increase blood circulation and help improve symptoms related to blood flow problems.
Essential oils for tinnitus provide aromatherapy that affects the brain in a way that produces a calming, “feel good” effect.
Helichrysum oil, cypress oil, basil oil, and lavender are some common essential oils used as home remedies for calming the noise.
Pressure can be applied to the acupoints in the body to bring relief in tinnitus patients. In the following YouTube video, Board Certified Licensed Massage Therapist, Yasuko Kawamura, demonstrates acupressure massage that can be done at home.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tinnitus
Is tinnitus permanent?
Tinnitus symptoms usually occur spontaneously and come and go at irregular intervals. They can be short-term and go away on their own or maybe persistent and chronic.
Symptoms may persist for as long as the underlying condition causing tinnitus, e.g., earwax buildup, remains unidentified and untreated.
Is tinnitus curable?
There is presently no cure for tinnitus. While scientists are searching for a cure, you may explore natural treatments, e.g., acupuncture or medical treatment, e.g., antidepressants, available to manage the symptoms of the condition.
What is the most effective treatment for tinnitus?
Treatment for this condition is not a one-size-fits-all. Effective treatment depends on the cause of tinnitus and whether you prefer medical or natural treatment.
Hearing aids, noise-making devices, acoustic neural stimulation, massage, cognitive behavioral therapy, and acupuncture are the common treatment used.
Should you try acupuncture for tinnitus?
Acupuncture is not a replacement but a natural alternative to traditional medical treatment. Although the effectiveness of acupuncture is questioned, some patients claim to experience relief with this treatment.
For some people, acupuncture is worth a try even if it means only a temporary escape from the maddening sound in the ear.
Can acupuncture help with severe tinnitus?
Acupuncture is intended to be a treatment that provides temporary relief for chronic or severe tinnitus. Targeting specific points of the body using specially designed needles, it can encourage the release of certain hormones and the flow of energy thought to alleviate the noise.
Can acupuncture make tinnitus worse?
Studies are still ongoing to determine the efficacy of acupuncture. There is no real evidence that this traditional Chinese therapy makes tinnitus worse.
In fact, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concludes that acupuncture can improve the condition in certain patients.
Can magnesium cause tinnitus?
Magnesium is not officially listed as a cause for tinnitus. On the other hand, it is believed that magnesium deficiency can lead to tinnitus associated with hearing loss.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, in his article, Can Magnesium Relieve Your Tinnitus? suggests that taking magnesium supplements can improve symptoms by relaxing blood vessels and promoting blood flow to the inner ear.
What foods can make tinnitus worse?
Although not scientifically proven, certain foods are said to worsen tinnitus. They include salt, caffeine, sugar, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), oily or fatty foods such as fast foods, and sulfite found in wine and some preserved foods. Alcohol is also believed to make the condition worse.
What foods are good for tinnitus?
It is generally believed that a healthy diet is a way to manage many health conditions, including tinnitus. Certain foods such as pineapples and bananas may be good choices to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the inner ear.
What is the best medicine for tinnitus?
The best medicine for tinnitus is the treatment that provides the greatest relief for a patient. Available treatment options are medication, noise suppression devices, and cognitive and behavioral therapy. Additionally, acupuncture is popularly used as an alternative medicine to relieve the symptoms of the condition.
What supplements are good for tinnitus?
In addition to eating fruits, such as bananas and pineapple, supplements such as zinc and B12 vitamin may reduce the risk of tinnitus recurrence.
Dr. Emily Kane, a Naturopathic Doctor, and Licensed Acupuncturist supports this finding in her article, Top Five Remedies For Tinnitus. Another supplement, Gingko Biloba is said to provide relief for patients.
If you have tried various treatments for your tinnitus but none worked, you may consider acupuncture as a natural and alternative way to improve the symptoms and quiet the noise in your ear.