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

Dr. Li-Korotky

Acupuncture is a medical practice strategized for alleviating pain. This procedure is now also available to patients with hearing loss caused by auditory nerve damage or other factors. Primarily, this method is comprised of integrative medicine involving the pricking of tissues with needles for the purpose of promoting natural healing in various conditions. Acupuncture has effectively served as a pain management procedure for many types of pain, but it is now being employed for gaining relief from painful hearing loss and tinnitus.

Understanding the Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a disability that can occur either suddenly or over a period of time. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss may result from problems with the sensory organs of the inner ear. It can also be due to being exposed to a sudden loud sound. While, hearing loss that occurs over time is usually a case associated with old age factors. People’s ability to hear may deplete as a result of their lifestyle habits and/or due to other causes. However, the onset of such conditions usually emerges in late years in most people.

Hearing loss may either be hereditary or non-hereditary. Heredity hearing loss is estimated to account for 35-55% of age-related hearing loss cases. Such impairment usually appears in the form of Otosclerosis, Usher’s syndrome and Pendred syndrome. Almost 70% of genetic hearing loss is non-syndromic, meaning that it occurs without displaying any symptoms. Non genetic hearing loss on the other hand is attributed to various factors that can be avoided such as working in an environment where the ear is exposed to deafening sounds, listening to loud music, long term exposure to high volume sound, injury, aging, ototoxic drugs, and bacterial infections.

There are several types of hearing loss including conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is caused by simple or complex forms of blockage. The problem usually lies with the functions of the outer ear being obstructed by foreign objects (i.e., bacteria, pus or benign tumor). Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by complications in the inner ear, usually associated with auditory nerve. Mixed hearing loss may be a combination of syndromes of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, meaning that there is a problem with both the inner and the outer parts of the ear.

Some types of hearing loss are reversible and can be cured, while others can be treated, improving the quality of life but not exactly cured. Whatever the case may be, the rule of thumb is to seek medical help as soon as you experience any symptoms.

Understanding Tinnitus

Tinnitus is characterized by ringing sensations in the ear. This perception of noise in the ear is a widespread problem that affects about 15 to 20 percent of people. In severe cases, people may find their peace of mind compromised as their ability to concentrate and sleep soundly weakens. This can eventually interfere with their overall routine, causing psychological distress. Tinnitus is a symptom of various age-related health disorders or ear injury. It is, however, not the cause for hearing loss and in many cases may not be linked to hearing loss at all. Doctors treat tinnitus by first identifying the underlying condition and then depending on the diagnosis, they provide a suitable course of treatment.

Acupuncture can release stress and therefore may serve as an effective way to treat tinnitus indirectly. Since stress and anxiety can trigger tinnitus, people can gain relief by de-stressing themselves through effective procedures. Since there are studies that have shown and supported the conclusion that acupuncture has calming effects, it can be concluded that acupuncture can treat stress induced tinnitus in people.


Acupuncture is a traditional alternate Chinese method of stimulating the body’s natural mechanism of healing by inserting thin needles to deliver electrical impulses to precise areas of the body. Specifically administered needles trigger the nervous system, which causes chemicals to release to the muscles and the brain. This leads to the release of various chemicals and hormones that enable the body’s healing abilities to carry out their functions.

Does Acupuncture Help Relieve Tinnitus and Improve Hearing?

Over the years, the understanding and treatment of hearing loss in patients have expanded allowing patients to have a variety of effective remedial processes to experiment with. Acupuncture can be considered one of them since it has demonstrated its effective use in the form of treating nerve related deafness among some patients. According to a research published In China by International Journal of Clinical regarding the efficiency and safe use of acupuncture for treating sensorineural hearing loss, it was concluded that acupuncture can improve hearing in some patients when combined with medication (however, more study in respect to these findings were recommended by the researchers).

Additionally, there have also been studies conducted in China to treat the sudden loss of hearing in patients. In one study, comprised of sixty-three participants, it was found that two thirds of them experienced a “therapeutic effect”. This led to the conclusion that those with mild hearing loss may be able to accomplish positive results from this treatment. However, due to limitations such as lacking control and using a relatively small sample size, the findings are considered inaccurate and not strong enough to support any conclusions.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

Hearing loss can be understood by categorizing its levels into mild, moderate, severe and profound. These levels help to first determine the degree to which a person is affected by inaudibility. Specialists use an audiogram to evaluate the hearing loss of people, which shows frequencies that they are able to hear. This allows specialists to determine the best treatment for them. Health providers are crucial hosts in getting their patients equipped with proper hearing aids and to also delay or prevent the onset of hearing loss caused from external factors. Anyone facing difficulty in hearing or any discomfort in their ears should consult their caregivers for a hearing test. Early diagnosis is key to prevention.

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