Acupuncture and Hearing Loss – Revisited

ap2ap3A few years ago (2011) at Hearing International we visited the topic of acupuncture and hearing loss (Part I and Part II).  At the time, we were reviewing the procedure as it related to curing hearing loss and tinnitus.  Acupuncture, of course, has been around for centuries and the procedure has been credited as a treatment for many diseases, including asthma, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, mild headaches, migraine headaches, osteoarthritis, sciatica, stroke, and nausea, among many others.  Some research has even claimed that acupuncture can cure deafness and hearing loss. Such claims are of interest to audiologists and, at Hearing International, we find ourselves almost four years later asking the same question.  Does acupuncture really work for the treatment of hearing impairment or is it a scam?

 ap5Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. TCM practitioners use herbal medicines and various mind and body practices, such as acupuncture and tai chi, to treat or prevent health problems. TCM also encompasses other procedures such as moxibustion (burning an herb above the skin to apply heat to acupuncture points), Chinese herbal medicine, tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage), dietary therapy, and tai chi and qi gong (practices that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus). TCM is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 2,500 years.

Traditional systems of medicine also exist in other East and South Asian countries, including Japan (where the traditional herbal medicine is called Kampo) and Korea. Some of these systems have been influenced by TCM and are similar to it in some ways, but each area has developed distinctive features of its own. As noted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its National Institute for Complementary Health (2015), TCM is used in most countries  as a complementary health approach.

Although the ap4exact number of people who use TCM in the United States is unknown, it was estimated in 1997 that some 10,000 practitioners served more than 1 million patients a year. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. The number of visits to acupuncturists tripled between 1997 and 2007. According to the 2007 NHIS, about 2.3 million Americans practiced tai chi and 600,000 practiced qi gong in the previous year.  

Even with all this activity, acupuncture providers and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) experts, the treatment of hearing loss with acupuncture is not thought to be beneficial for patients with broken tympanic membranes, disarticulated ossicular chains, and other physicial anomalies. Over the years, there has been rather mixed research (both Chinese and Western) relative to the use of acupuncture for the treatment of sudden hearing loss and other sensori-neural auditory disorders, including tinnitus. After reviewing the literature to some extent in Part II of the 2011 Hearing International article we concluded that the use of acupuncture was “not quite ready for prime time, but not totally snake oiltp7 either.”

New Chinese Study

 As an update of our assumption of 2011, some new data (February, 2015) available from  Jiang et al., published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, conclude that acupuncture “can significantly improve the hearing of patients with nerve deafness, and the efficacy of acupuncture in combination with medication is superior to medication alone.  In the abstract for their study they write that acupuncture is one of the important parts of therapeutic methods in traditional Chinese medicine, and has been widely used for the treatment of nerve deafness in recent years. The current study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of ap6acupuncture therapy for nerve deafness compared with conventional medicine therapy. Jiang et al. investigated 12 studies that included 527 patients between 2006 and 2013 and assessed the efficacy of acupuncture therapy for nerve deafness.  After careful review and Meta-analysis of these various studies, the authors concluded that acupuncture therapy can significantly improve the hearing of patients with nerve deafness, and the efficacy of acupuncture in combination with medication is superior to medication alone.  The researchers cautioned that, “while the result of meta-analysis shows that acupuncture may effectively improve the hearing conditions of patients with nerve deafness, clinicians should be careful in judging the efficacy acupuncture based upon the result of meta-analysis alone due to system errors, random error and clinical trial methodological quality, and we have not enough evidence to evaluate the safety of acupuncture treatment.”   So the Hearing International conclusion in 2015, even with the new evidence is still that  acupuncture is still “not quite ready for prime time, but not totally snake oil either.”

 

References:

Health CMI, (2015). Acupuncture effective for treating hearing loss.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1450-acupuncture-effective-for-treating-hearing-loss

National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Complementary Health, (2015). Traditional Chinese Medicine:  An Introduction.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  https://nccih.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm

Traynor, R. (2011). Acupuncture and hearing loss:  does it really work Part 1.  Hearing International Hearing Health and Technology Matters.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  https://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearinginternational/2011/acupuncture-and-hearing-loss-does-it-really-work/

Traynor, R. (2011). Acupuncture and hearing loss:  does it really work Part 2.  Hearing International Hearing Health and Technology Matters.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  https://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearinginternational/2011/acupuncture-and-hearing-loss-does-it-really-work-part-ii/

Images:

Health CMI, (2015). Acupuncture effective for treating hearing loss.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1450-acupuncture-effective-for-treating-hearing-loss

Tomorrow Focus (2015). Image of the stones.  Retrieved April 14, 2015:  http://www.tomorrow-focus.com/newsroom/media-releases/half-year-result-tomorrow-focus-ag-reports-substantial-increase-in-revenue-and-earnings-for-first-half-of-2011-adjusted-revenue-up-27-percent-ebit-up-60-percent_aid_678.html

American Educational Research Foundation (2015).  Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis SIG 176.  Retrieved April 15, 2015:  http://www.aera.net/SIG176/SystematicReviewsandMeta-AnalysisSIG176/tabid/15238/Default.aspx

 

 

 

About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor, Ed.D., MBA is the CEO and practicing audiologist at Audiology Associates, Inc., in Greeley, Colorado with particular emphasis in amplification and operative monitoring, offering all general audiological services to patients of all ages. Dr. Traynor holds degrees from the University of Northern Colorado (BA, 1972, MA 1973, Ed.D., 1975), the University of Phoenix (MBA, 2006) as well as Post Doctoral Study at Northwestern University (1984). He taught Audiology at the University of Northern Colorado (1973-1982), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1976-77) and Colorado State University (1982-1993). Dr. Traynor is a retired Lt. Colonel from the US Army Reserve Medical Service Corps and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Audiology at the University of Florida, the University of Colorado, and the University of Northern Colorado. For 17 years he was Senior International Audiology Consultant to a major hearing instrument manufacturer traveling all over the world providing academic audiological and product orientation for distributors and staff. A clinician and practice manager for over 35 years, Dr. Traynor has lectured on most aspects of the field of Audiology in over 40 countries. Dr. Traynor is the current President of the Colorado Academy of Audiology and co-author of Strategic Practice Management a text used in most universities to train audiologists in practice management, now being updated to a 2nd edition.

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