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Tinnitus and Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Acupuncture Treatment

The acupuncture treatment for tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss is similar. The primary approach involves needling acupuncture points around the auricle, supplemented by points in adjacent or distant ear reflex areas.

Stronger needle sensations are generally required, especially for longer-duration conditions, with needles retained for 10-20 minutes. For recent onset cases, daily treatment is recommended, while for chronic cases, treatments every 3-4 days are suggested. Continuous treatment is maintained as long as it is effective, alternating between different acupoints to avoid acupoint resistance. When progress stalls, a break in treatment may be necessary before resuming.

In recent cases of tinnitus or hearing loss, effective treatment has been achieved using only the Yifeng point. According to literature, Yifeng is located behind the earlobe, between the mastoid process and the mandible, in a depression that becomes evident when the mouth is open. It is described as “pressing it elicits pain in the ear.” Careful palpation behind the earlobe often reveals a change in subcutaneous tissue hardness at Yifeng, with many patients feeling a round, hard nodule of varying sizes. Pressing this nodule elicits sour, dull pain radiating towards the ear or throat. The nodule is identified as Yifeng when pressing elsewhere doesn’t produce this sensation. After locating the nodule, a mark is made at its center with a fingernail, followed by vertical needle insertion. Needling depth varies from 0.3 to 1 inch, targeting the most sensitive part of the nodule. Common needle sensations include local soreness, swelling, numbness, or pain radiating to the ear or face, sometimes accompanied by facial twitching. Additionally, the skin around the needle, auricle, and face may redden and warm up. Some patients experience a body heat sensation, sweating, belching, coughing, or even fainting; symptoms typically resolve upon needle removal or lying down.

Anatomically, Yifeng contains branches of the facial nerve, accessory nerve, and nerves from C2-C4 vertebrae, with nearby branches of the greater auricular and vagus nerves, making it a nerve-rich acupoint. Its effect is likely achieved by stimulating related nerve branches or terminals in the subcutaneous tissue.

Acupuncture is somewhat effective for recent-onset tinnitus or sensorineural hearing loss, but less so for long-standing cases. Some patients report reduced tinnitus, possibly linked to improvements in related symptoms like neurasthenia and insomnia. Hearing improvements in cases closely associated with tinnitus also occur as tinnitus subsides.

Given the lack of effective conventional medical treatments for tinnitus, acupuncture for sensorineural tinnitus or hearing loss remains challenging. Some critical local points like Ermen, Tinggong, and Tinghui are difficult to needle deeply and accurately, thus the treatment's efficacy is greatly influenced by the practitioner's technique. During treatment, special attention should be paid to the specificity of acupoints, correct needling direction, depth, and achieving a strong needle sensation, as these are key to improving treatment outcomes for these conditions.


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