Hearing Loss and Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine effectively addresses issues of the ears due to a deep understanding of the root causes of ear problems noted in many ancient Chinese medical texts. The ear controls sense of hearing and governs balance according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The ancient text the Ling Shu (Miraculous Pivot) states, “if the brain marrow is insufficient, vertigo and tinnitus will occur…”. The marrow is related to the Kidney Qi, so non-trauma related hearing loss is typically a sign of Kidney Deficiency. For best outcomes using self-care, combine associated Aroma Acu-Sticks® to acu-points, topical remedies, and good lifestyle practices.
Acupressure for Hearing Loss Due to Aging
- Apply the Water Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Kidney 3
- Apply the Fire Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point San Jiao 5
- Apply the Wood Element Acupressure Stick to Acupressure Point Gallbladder 41
Causes of Poor Hearing in Chinese Medicine
Kidney Deficiency and Hearing Loss
In Chinese medicine, the ears are the orifice related to the Kidney energetic organ system. The chapter On the Brain in the ancient text the LingShu (Miraculous Pivot) states “ if the brain marrow is insufficient, vertigo and tinnitus will occur. The Kidneys of Chinese medicine are the “Sea of Marrow” and relate to the brain. The Kidney energetic organ system is in charge of storing Essence, or Jing; abundant Essence results in normal hearing as the Ling Shu explains, “… depletion of Essence gives rise to deafness”. Essence is closely related to bone marrow in TCM; balance is closely related to brain marrow also. If the brain marrow is deficient, vertigo and tinnitus will occur. This type of hearing loss is common in the elderly, and typically comes on slowly.
Earlobes and Kidney Essence-Jing
As people age their earlobes sometimes get bigger. This is because our Jing, or Essence can become depleted in our latter years. Abnormalities of the cartilage of the ear (unassociated with trauma) would reflect low Kidney Jing, which is common with birth defects and genetic abnormalities.
Wood Element Imbalances and Hearing Problems
The Liver and Gallbladder belong to the Wood Element according to the Five Element Theory of TCM.
Physiologically, the branches of gallbladder channel traverse the back of the ear through the ear to reach the front of the ear. The liver and the gallbladder are exterior-interior connected Liver Qi Stagnation causes Liver Fire that hitches a ride up the gallbladder channel to the head where is cab cause tinnitus, deafness, ear ache or infection. This type of hearing loss typically comes on quickly and can affect people of any age, but is most common in adults with the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus brought on by anger and frustration
- Sudden deafness
- Ear pain
- Middle ear inflammation
Spleen Deficiency and Ear Problems
The Spleen energetic organ system has a function of “raising” substances in the body. The spleen raises clear yang to nourish the ear. The seven facial orifices which include the ears are called “ the orifices of lucid yang” which means these seven orifices depend on the nourishment of Yang to function normally. If the Spleen Qi is deficient, lucid Yang will fail to rise and turbid Yang Qi will rise, resulting in prolonged Damp secretions inside the ear. The Spleen is also in charge of transforming fluids in the body. Therefore excessive Dampness and turbid yang qi will rise if Spleen Qi is lacking giving rise to chronic damp secretions of the ear, vertigo, and other symptoms such as chronic ear infections and blockages. Spleen Qi Deficiency typically results in Internal Dampness with feelings of a heavy head, nausea, and dizziness.
Phlegm-Fire and Ear Problems
If Dampness resulting from Spleen Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation are not resolved, in time Phlegm-Fire can develop. This will develop with all of the indications of both Spleen and Liver-Fire imbalances. Because the Dampness is thickened in to a sticky, turbid Phlegm, this condition takes a great deal of time to resolve. Treatment strategies would include purging fire and resolving phlegm, regulating Qi, and removing obstruction of orifices.
Blood Stasis due to Qi Stagnation and Ear Problems
The Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. If Wood Element imbalances are not properly addressed, Qi Stagnation can develop. Since Blood circulation depends on Qi circulation, Blood Stasis can result. Sudden onset of ear pain or tinnitus, sudden deafness can result from Blood Stagnation due to Qi Stagnation; however, Blood Stasis can be differentiated with indications such as sharp pain and deep purple tongue body.
Heart Imbalances and Ear Problems
The Heart opens into the ear according to traditional Chinese medicine. Heart not communicating with Kidney is a well-known pattern of Chinese medicine, and if there is not good co-ordination of the Heart and Kidney energetic system tinnitus and deafness can develop. Additionally, the Heart governs the Blood and a blockage of blood vessels can result in deafness and obstruction of the ear. Sensitivity to noises and startled emotions following loud noises would fall in to this pattern. Chinese medicine has long-recognized that diagonal creases of the earlobe may signify Heart Qi Deficiency or Heart Blood Stagnation.
Lung Imbalances and Ear Problems
This refers to External Wind pathogenic infections invading the Lungs such as a viral Cold or Flu. The possible resulting Phlegm of the sinuses can impact the ears and hearing. the Book of Suwen states that “treating deafness aims at treating the lung.” This pattern is often involved in sudden deafness in the elderly who have been exposed to wind outdoors.
Jin, Y., & Lu, M. (2016). Acupuncture as a primary and independent treatment in the acute phases of sudden sensorineural hearing loss: Case Report. Medicine, 95(26), e4062. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000004062
Sudden hearing loss multi-center clinical study. Zhonghua er bi yan hou tou jing wai ke za zhi = Chinese journal of otorhinolaryngology head and neck, surgery 2013; 48 5:355–361.
Tan R, Yang X, Tang X, Ma W, He L. The efficacy and safety of acupuncture for Ramsay Hunt syndrome: A protocol for systematic review. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020;99(13):e19582. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000019582
Jiang, Y., Shi, X., & Tang, Y. (2015). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture therapy for nerve deafness: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. International journal of clinical and experimental medicine, 8(2), 2614–2620.
Qiao FY, Ge YF. Acupuncture Treatment of 60 cases of Sensorineural Deafness with Syndrome of Kidney-Essence Deficiency. Chin J Ophthalmol and Otorhinolaryngol. 2011;1:45–46.
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.