Tinnitus, or ringing/buzzing in the ears, can turn from a minimal annoyance to a debilitating symptom that interferes with concentration and quiet time. If you are suffering from tinnitus, you'll want to talk with your doctor about the root cause, as tinnitus can be caused by something simple, like wax buildup, or it can be a sign of excessive noise exposure or a medical condition—like Meniere's disease.
Treatments like motion-sickness medications, vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and low-sodium diets can help people reduce their tinnitus symptoms. You may also want to give acupuncture a try; read on to learn more.
How Does Acupuncture for Tinnitus Work?
You are likely somewhat familiar with acupuncture practices. Therapists insert very fine needles into specific points of the body to stimulate the nervous system and encourage natural healing. Acupuncture can help release neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, which are associated with pleasant feelings and pain relief. Acupuncture can relieve anxiety, and since anxiety/stress is a common trigger for tinnitus, acupuncture could help you prevent the symptom.
If you are getting acupuncture for tinnitus, your therapist may insert needles at acupoints such as Ermen (TB21), which is a depression anterior to the ear; Tinggong (SI19), which is below Ermen; and, at Tinghui (GB2), which is near the ear lobe. Kidney issues can increase the risk of tinnitus, so your therapist might place needles at acupoints associated with improved kidney function. Lastly, your therapist might place needles around and on top of your scalp to address tinnitus.
What Do Studies Say?
Many traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices, like acupuncture, still need more studies to be more fully understood by Western medicine practitioners. However, there have been some promising studies that show the efficacy of acupuncture for tinnitus. For example, one 2016 trial found that scalp acupuncture, along with electroacupuncture, could reduce the intensity of tinnitus and improve patients' quality of life. Also, a 2018 study found that acupuncture could reduce tinnitus severity and loudness for people with non-pulsatile chronic tinnitus. Patients may also get better sleep and not be kept up by noisy tinnitus.
It may be worth it to get a firm diagnosis of your tinnitus category, as acupuncture may be more effective for certain types of tinnitus. Different categories include pulsatile tinnitus, neurological tinnitus, subjective tinnitus, somatic tinnitus, low-frequency tinnitus, etc. Once you can determine your tinnitus category, you may be able to explore more specific studies related to your condition.
Reach out to a massage therapist or another professional who provides acupuncture for more details.