Do You Hear What I Hear? Tinnitus

Recently a patient came to us suffering from tinnitus. She was experiencing what is known as “pulsatile tinnitus” or a “venous hum”.

This form of tinnitus, while less common than the ringing type, is especially perplexing and unsettling.

Pulsatile Tinnitus is where you hear the rushing of blood in your ears. It’s particularly pronounced when our patient is lying down. So when she tries to sleep or wakes in the morning she is hearing the “whoosh” of her own blood through her ears, neck and head.

Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?

One in 20 Americans experience some sort of tinnitus symptoms. Some experience it briefly, others for months or even years at a time. Tinnitus can significantly impact the quality of life for its sufferers. Like our patient, a loss of sleep is common. When you lose sleep, your circadian rhythms are disturbed which can compromise your immune system. Thus, a relatively simple case of tinnitus can lead to a domino effect of issues affecting the body, mind and spirit.

Possible causes for tinnitus include degeneration of the auditory nerves, ear infections, Meniere’s Disease (a disorder of the inner ear) or Hyperacusis (an increased sensitivity to sound frequency). Prescription medications and chemotherapy can also cause tinnitus.

In Chinese Medicine, the correlation between the kidney and bladder often controls hearing. It may be related to kidney strain. Emotions are also important to examine as feelings of anger and resentment block the liver energy. Over time, that energy may disrupt hearing function.

Diet and behavior also play a role. Dairy products promotes the formation of mucus, which causes congestion throughout the sinuses and ears. We also examine the use of electronic devices as they are known to contribute to hearing problems.


Acupuncturist frequently use the positions of San Jao 3 and 17, Gallbladder 2 and 43, with Kidney 3 and 6, to treat tinnitus. We also may use acupuncture at the scalp or ear points.

Ginger-spice tea is a good home remedy for ear troubles. Boil 1 heaping tablespoon each of dried oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage and cinnamon with 3 slices of fresh ginger in 4 cups of water. Steep for 15 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day for 3 weeks. Qi Gong breathing exercises can also help to “flush” the ears and relieve the sensations of tinnitus.

If you’re looking to find relief from tinnitus we encourage you to consult with your acupuncturist.

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