If you’re one of the estimated 50 million Americans suffering from tinnitus or the 3-4 million veterans experiencing tinnitus, you may be very interested in knowing whether acupuncture is an effective treatment for tinnitus.
Whether your tinnitus is mild or severe, intermittent or chronic, you’ll be interested in knowing what research studies have shown, as well as information on how many treatments you’ll need and the estimated cost.
First, let’s talk about tinnitus, its symptoms, and its association with stress…
What is Tinnitus?
‘Ringing’ or ‘buzzing’ in the ears or any type of sound or combination of sounds in the ear is often referred to as Tinnitus. The main cause is “nerve activity that the brain interprets as sound” and may occur with hearing loss.
Tinnitus may be triggered by an injury to the inner ear causing decreased activity of the auditory nerve. But it also has a correlation to stress. Scientific evidence supports that tinnitus induces stress, and it is possible that stress induces tinnitus. So anything that helps to reduce your stress levels is likely to have an effect on your symptoms.
According to this study published in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, “Acupuncture is effective in reducing the loudness and severity of tinnitus and can be a useful treatment for nonpulsatile chronic tinnitus.”
Other studies have found that acupuncture is also effective in improving the quality of life and anxiety levels of people experiencing tinnitus.
And as for stress, acupuncture has been shown to have a positive effect on stress levels.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture may benefit those suffering from tinnitus from multiple mechanisms. The primary may be simply the relaxation response. Getting acupuncture can be a very pleasant, relaxing experience. Because of the negative impact stress has on the tinnitus, it makes sense that treatment modalities that promote rest and relaxation will have a positive impact on a person’s health and potentially reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.
How Many Sessions?
In Rogha’s study on the effects of acupuncture on inner ear tinnitus, research participants who showed significant improvement in levels of tinnitus severity, as well as anxiety levels and other quality of life indexes, underwent acupuncture treatments every other day for a total of 10 treatments. That’s 4 treatments weekly for 2 weeks.
Acupuncture costs vary by location and practitioner. However, at an average cost of $75, 10 sessions of acupuncture would run $750. If this sounds expensive, you may consider utilizing community acupuncture, which significantly reduces the per treatment cost of acupuncture.
Frequently asked questions
Does acupuncture work for tinnitus?
Yes, acupuncture has been shown in studies to reduce the loudness and severity of tinnitus. Acupuncture can also has a positive impact on secondary symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
Does Medicare cover tinnitus?
No, Medicare doesn’t cover acupuncture for tinnitus. The only condition Medicare will cover acupuncture for is chronic low back pain.
How often should I get acupuncture for tinnitus?
It is advisable to discuss the frequency of your acupuncture treatments for tinnitus with a professional acupuncturist in your area.
Acupuncture Points for Tinnitus
According to the World Health Organization, these are the basic acupuncture points that are helpful for tinnitus:
According to TCM, secondary acupoints include:
- TE3, TE5, TE17, GB8, GB20, GB43, LR2
- LI4, SP9, ST40, SI19, TE3, TE21, BL20, GB20, GB2, CV9, CV12, TE5
- SP6, HT6, BL23, KI3, KI7, GB2, LR3, GV4, CV4
- LU9, SI19, BL13, TE16, GV20, CV6, CV17
- SP6, SI19, BL15, PC6, GV20, CV14
According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are many complementary and alternative treatment modalities that may be helpful for tinnitus, including “vitamins and herbs, acupuncture, naturopathic treatment, hypnosis, and others.” Other lifestyle approaches that may help with tinnitus include reducing caffeine, alcohol, salt, aspirin, and nicotine intake, as well as stress reduction, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet.
Because some of these therapies may assist with stress reduction and sleep the complementary and alternative therapies may help with tinnitus include:
- Guided imagery and visualization
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
Before getting started with acupuncture for tinnitus, be sure to talk with your physician or medical professional about getting a proper medical diagnosis and what treatment recommendations are appropriate for your condition.
Work with a professional acupuncturist in your area to determine how acupuncture may best help you and the frequency of treatment that’s right for you.
Henry, Ph.D., J., Schechter, Ph.D., M., Zaugg, M..A, T., Kaelin, MBA, C., & Oliver, M.S., S. R. (n.d.). Tinnitus. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.ncrar.research.va.gov/forvets/Documents/bordertinn1.pdf
Mazurek, B., Haupt, H., Olze, H., & Szczepek, A. J. (2012). Stress and tinnitus-from bedside to bench and back. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 6, 47. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2012.00047
Naderinabi, B., Soltanipour, S., Nemati, S., Saberi, A., & Parastesh, S. (2018). Acupuncture for chronic nonpulsatile tinnitus: A randomized clinical trial. Caspian journal of internal medicine, 9(1), 38–45. https://doi.org/10.22088/cjim.9.1.38
Rogha, M., Rezvani, M., & Khodami, A. R. (2011). The effects of acupuncture on the inner ear originated tinnitus. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 16(9), 1217–1223.
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Acupuncture. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/acupuncture