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Ears-Hearing Loss

Related Article: Treating vertigo and tinnitus with Chinese medicine

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…” suggesting that there was an understanding that the ear is related to balance. These are the patterns of imbalance that can affect the ear and hearing in TCM:

Kidney Essence Deficiency and Hearing

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.

Wood Element Imbalances and Hearing

The Liver and Gallbladder belong to the Wood Element according to the Five Element Theory of TCM. Branches of the Gallbladder channel pass from the back of the ear, through the ear, reaching the area in front of the ear. Furthermore, the Gallbladder and Liver channels are connected. Accordingly, Liver-Fire can travel up through the Gallbladder channel. 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:

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 TCM, 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.

Spleen Deficiency and Ear Problems

The Spleen raises lucid yang to nourish the ear. The seven facial orifices are called, “ the orifices of lucid Yang” and all the seven orifices depend on the nourishment of lucid 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. 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.

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.

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