Often described as ‘ringing in the ears’, tinnitus is a condition in which a range of sounds can be heard from ‘within the body’ in the absence of any external sounds.
Tinnitus may be caused by noise-induced hearing loss, neurological damage (multiple sclerosis), ear infections, emotional stress, nasal allergies that prevent (or induce) fluid drain, earwax build-up, and exposure to loud sounds. Some medications or withdrawal from medications may cause tinnitus. Tinnitus may be a symptom of Ménière’s disease.
The treatment for tinnitus depends on the cause. It’s important to understand what triggers your tinnitus. What makes it better or worse? Is it more noticeable at specific times of the day? Some people find their tinnitus is worse when they’re stressed or anxious and improves when they’re calm and relaxed. Tinnitus is most noticeable in quiet environments, so use of background noise such as the radio can provide a helpful distraction. In more severe cases, cognitive behavioural therapy may help.
Acupuncture for Tinnitus
Research evidence on the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating tinnitus is mixed. The limited evidence suggests that acupuncture may help treat tinnitus by:
- Acting on the cochlea of the ear, specifically on the hair cells that help transmit sound
- Affecting the olivocochlear system to suppress otoacoustic emissions
- Altering the brain’s chemistry and serotonin levels
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing local circulation and reducing swelling
According to Chinese Medicine, tinnitus may be due to emotional strain, overwork, old age, diet (excessive consumption of dairy and fatty foods or irregular meals) or exposure to loud sounds.
Judy Bowen-Jones Lic Ac BSc Hons Ac MBAcC
Maciocia, G. 2005. The Practice of Chinese Medicine. Tinnitus. 305-314. Churchill Livingstone
Research Fact Sheets
For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.