Can Acupuncture Help Tinnitus? Research looks promising
If you experience symptoms of tinnitus, you’ve probably looked everywhere for a cure. Even just a reduction in tinnitus symptoms can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ineffective treatments for ringing in the ears and it’s hard to sort through what works and what doesn’t. But can acupuncture help tinnitus? Is this a viable treatment? It’s possible.
In addition to all these treatments, one of the usual questions that come up is: can acupuncture help tinnitus? It’s believed that there is a connection between acupuncture and reduced tinnitus symptoms, although not in all cases. While the current research looks promising, more clinical trials are needed.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the process of inserting fine needles into the skin at specific points along what are considered to be “lines of energy.” While it may sound scary, the needles are extremely thin and flexible, making them much more painless than actual traditional needles. Many people who do acupuncture feel very minimal discomfort.
Known as a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique, acupuncture has been used in various eastern cultures for thousands of years. In recent years, it has become more mainstream and is considered as treatment for different types of medical conditions. However, more research and clinical trials will need to be completed to understand the true potential and use of acupuncture, including its use for people with tinnitus.
Acupuncture treatment for tinnitus
One study has found that utilizing acupuncture can be effective in reducing the “loudness and severity of tinnitus” and can also be a useful treatment for nonpulsatile chronic tinnitus.
Completed from December 2014 until September 2015, this randomized double-blind clinical trial allocated patients suffering from chronic non-pulsatile tinnitus into two groups: acupuncture vs. placebo. These patients were treated in 15 sessions, after which they completed a visual analog scale for tinnitus loudness and tinnitus severity index questionnaires. It was concluded that tinnitus loudness and severity was decreased in those in the acupuncture group.
Some studies have also looked at acupuncture and traditional medicine used to treat tinnitus. One randomised controlled trial compared the clinical therapeutic effects of acupuncture, Chinese herbs and Western medicine in 90 patients with nervous tinnitus. The study showed that the effectiveness rates in the three different groups were 73%, 40% and 33%, indicating that acupuncture was the most effective for nervous tinnitus compared to Chinese herbs and Western medicine.
While there are some studies showing potential of using acupuncture against tinnitus, more research is needed.
It’s been researched that there may be a connection between the ears, head and neck in terms of pain and alignment. Many tinnitus sufferers have turned to chiropractors for tinnitus relief in this situation. It’s not a far stretch to understand that acupuncture in these areas may also help reduce tinnitus symptoms, similar to visiting a chiropractor.
How can acupuncture help tinnitus patients?
There are a few ways in which acupuncture may help relieve some tinnitus symptoms. Of course, this can depend on the individual, their medical history, their type of tinnitus and the severity of their tinnitus.
acting on the cochlea, specifically on the outer hair cells
acting on the function of the efferent olivocochlear system to suppress otoacoustic emissions
altering the brain’s chemistry, increasing neuropeptide Y levels and reducing serotonin levels
increasing local microcirculation which helps dispersal of swelling.
Because acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), practitioners have a slightly different view of acupuncture and tinnitus. TCM practitioners believe tinnitus is “a circulation problem around the ear, neck or shoulder region.” TCM practitioners also usually include a herbal medicine aspect when treating tinnitus with acupuncture. In this instance, acupuncture points for this condition are under the earlobe, along with other acupuncture points on your body.
Reviews of using acupuncture as a treatment for tinnitus
Many tinnitus sufferers have gone online to find new cures, treatments and relief for tinnitus. On one message board, users were split between finding relief with acupuncture and not experiencing any results. One user wrote: “My otolaryngologist recommended acupuncture. Said he saw it work when he spent some time in China. I tried two acupuncturists. Helped me relax but did nothing for tinnitus. One of them trained in China and told me tinnitus is not very responsive to acupuncture. But it won’t hurt to try it, other than cost. I may try one more acupuncturist since nothing else is helping either.”
Another user wrote: “ tried acupuncture, didn’t do anything for me, just emptied my pocket.”
Some users who have experienced some relief through acupuncture have recommended that you visit a professional who is highly rated and that you may need multiple sessions before you begin to notice any differences. Some have also been told that it’s best to keep a healthy diet, (including avoiding sugar and alcohol) to help reduce tinnitus symptoms naturally.
One user on another message board reported that acupuncture helped dim her high frequency tinnitus, writing: “I do still have tinnitus but it’s getting quieter and my hearing is getting better. For anyone struggling.. you might want to try acupuncture.”
Because tinnitus can be so uncomfortable and distracting, many who suffer from this condition are willing to try nearly anything for relief. While acupuncture may help reduce symptoms for some, it’s clear that it won’t work for everyone, or all types of tinnitus.
What to expect at an acupuncture appointment
As with any new medical appointment, it can be nerve-wracking your first time at an acupuncture appointment. Especially considering acupuncture is an aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine, your first session may be a little different than what you’re used to with other doctors. While there are various types of acupuncture depending on your issue, and your practitioner, here are some common things you should expect at an acupuncture appointment:
Eat something first!
While you may be nervous before your first appointment, it’s important to eat something before your acupuncture appointment. It’s not necessary to arrive with a full stomach, but it’s important to have eaten something beforehand. If you have an acupuncture session with an empty stomach, you could feel dizzy or lightheaded. If this continues, it can lead to fainting.
While you may be nervous, it’s still important that you eat something first.
Wear loose clothing
Depending on where your acupuncturist will need to insert the needles, you may not need to remove all of your clothing like you might for a massage. It’s ideal to wear loose-fitting clothing so the acupuncturist can access parts of your arms and legs without having to removing clothing.
Very small needles
Some people avoid acupuncture because the idea of needles is too scary or sounds too painful. Thankfully, this isn’t the case! Acupuncture needles are very thin, about the size of three strands of hair. Many patients report that they hardly feel the needles when they are inserted, or after they are in place. These types of needles are thin and flexible so they will cause minimal discomfort and the most common side effect is slight bruising.
If you’re not afraid of needles causing pain, the next most common concern is the risk of infection from dirty needles. Licensed acupuncturists are required to use sterilized needles only once. This is why it’s important to see someone qualified and licensed.
An acupuncture appointment is not like a doctor visit. A large part of acupuncture is about relaxing and being in a stress-free environment. Most patients do their visit laying down in a private room with calming music and dimmed lights, almost like a spa environment. While some users have reported their tinnitus symptoms did not change after visiting an acupuncturist, many commented that they felt much more calm and relaxed afterwards.
Take it easy
Everyone reacts to acupuncture differently, so it’s important to take it easy for your first appointment. After acupuncture, some patients feel relaxed and calm, some feel energetic and uplifted and some feel sleepy. It’s important to see how your body responds to acupuncture so you can know what to expect for future visits.
Once is often not enough
It really depends on why you are visiting an acupuncturist, but it’s likely that one session won’t be enough. It’s very common that you will arrange multiple visits to help treat your particular condition. It’s also important to check your medical insurance to see if acupuncture is covered in your plan. In order to get a reimbursement, many clinics can provide you with a bill to submit to you insurance provider.
Quiet Mind is a blog dedicated to turning a critical eye to tinnitus treatments and supplements. So many don’t work and are overhyped, we’re here to shed some light on some of the scams and successful products that claim to stop the ringing.