We take our ears and hearing for granted until something goes a miss. Ringing in the ears is known as tinnitus and acupuncture takes a treatment approach of looking for the underlying cause.
Tinnitus and Acupuncture
Tinnitus is the name given to ringing in the ears. One of the strange things about tinnitus is that even Western Medicine does not consider it a disease or a condition, but rather a symptom. When you compare two lists of causes for this condition, one listing the causes as seen from a Western Medicine point of view and the other from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, you will get a pretty good idea of how far apart these two disciplines can really be in some cases.
The Western Medicine list contains more items. They range from trauma to earwax. One of the problems in tinnitus is that it is very hard to measure because the only way it can be observed is from the reports of the sufferer. There is a certain type of tinnitus that can actually be heard by the examiner, but this is uncommon and related to muscle spasms within the ear. This is known as objective tinnitus. In other rare cases, the noise is like a pulse and this is called pulsatile tinnitus. This condition is usually related to increased blood flow around the ear or sometimes simply patient awareness of the pulse of blood flowing near the ear.
The majority of cases are subjective tinnitus. This is a ringing noise where the exact cause is unknown. Chinese Medicine sees it as a common result of internal disruptions of the flow of qi. They see four or five different causes and each one suggests a different acupuncture treatment to alleviate it. Emotional strain, anger and frustration can lead to excess LV fire or LV rising. Excessive sadness and grief can cause weak chest qi that does not rise to the head. Excessive sex or overwork can weaken KD Jing, as can old age. Dietary habits and trauma each have their own results and therefore suggest their own treatment.
This look at how acupuncture might be used to treat tinnitus also illustrates the problem with most clinical studies that attempt to measure the success rates of acupuncture treatments. In most clinical studies, certain acupuncture points will be selected. If the studies are attempting to be fair, the points will be points that have had some past success in the treatment of the condition. However, if the cause is different in each patient and ranges from excessive sexual activity to grief, it is plain that each patient is going to have his own set of acupuncture points.
Another problem with the studies is that acupuncture is only one part of what is usually a complete program that includes the administration of herbs and advice on diet and lifestyle issues. It is only when the entire program is followed that results can be expected. There is no doubt that acupuncture for tinnitus can produce results, but proving it in clinical studies is a bit complex. This is part of what leads to the resistance of some Western doctors to recommend it as an alternative treatment.