Acupuncture Continuing Education

​Acupuncture Beats Drugs For Hearing Loss Treatment

Acupuncture is more effective than conventional drug therapy for the treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion finds acupuncture more effective than several types of drug therapies. The research demonstrates that acupuncture has a higher total effective rate and a higher cure rate than drug therapy for the treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss. However, a combination of acupuncture plus drug therapy yields the highest rate of positive patient outcomes. Ear ponts on acudoll.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), commonly known as sudden deafness, is considered a medical emergency. It occurs as an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing, either at once or over several days. In nine out of ten cases, hearing loss is limited to only one ear. Schreiber et al. note, "Many treatments are used, including corticosteroids, antiviral drugs, and vasoactive and oxygen-based treatments."

A total of 102 participants were randomly allocated to three different groups in the research. The first group received traditional Chinese acupuncture combined with pharmaceutical medications. The second group was treated with drugs as a standalone procedure. The third group was treated with traditional Chinese acupuncture as a standalone procedure. Both the integrated treatment group and the acupuncture group had significantly better cure rates than the drug therapy group. The integrated treatment group achieved the highest level of clinical success. 

Patients were admitted to the study if their symptoms had developed within the last month and they had no other ear related conditions. Patients were not included if they were pregnant or if they suffered from severe hypertension, diabetes, cardiac issues, cerebrovascular disease, malignant tumors, or hearing loss associated with diseases such as middle ear disease, Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuromas, or large vestibular aqueduct syndrome. 

Three hao filiform needles

Drug therapy included administration of prednisone, lidocaine, vinpocetine, and/or fibrinolysin dependent upon the type of hearing loss. Acupuncture treatment included the acupoints Ermen (TB21), Tinghui (GB2), Wangu (GB12), and scalp acupuncture at the vertigo-auditory area. All acupoints were applied on the affected side. The patients were treated in a seated position and manual acupuncture techniques were used to elicit deqi. The researchers provided details about the acupuncture techniques employed in the study:

  • Ermen (TB21), Tinghui (GB2): The patients were instructed to widely open their mouths and 40 – 50 mm filiform needles were inserted downwards at approximately a 15° angle. No lifting and thrusting techniques were used. The aim was to achieve a feeling of heaviness and fullness inside the ear.
  • Wangu (GB12): A 40 mm filiform needle was inserted and slightly angled toward the ear canal. The aim was to achieve an aching or full feeling or for the feeling to radiate into the head or shoulder.
  • Scalp acupuncture vertigo-auditory area: A 40mm filiform needle was inserted towards the back of the head. Twisting was applied continuously for 2 – 3 minutes at a speed of approximately 200 rotations per minute.

Needles were retained for 30 minutes with manual techniques applied every 15 minutes. Acupuncture, as a standalone therapy, achieved a 79.4% total effective rate. The integrated treatment group achieved a 97.1% total effective rate. The standalone drug therapy group had a 47.1% total effective rate. In the acupuncture group, 22 out of 34 patients were considered cured compared with only 6 in the drug therapy group.

The authors of the study comment that the use of acupuncture in addition to drug therapy may have increased blood flow and the flow of oxygen to the ear thereby facilitating the recovery of nerve function. Based on the findings, the researchers recommended additional clinical trials.

Liao W, Dai S, Jia JP, et al. (2015). Integrated Treatment of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Western Medicine for Sudden Deafness of 34 Cases, Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Volume 31, No. 1.

Schreiber BE, Agrup C, Haskard DO, et al. (2010). Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, The Lancet, Volume 375, No. 9721, p1203–1211.

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