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28 questions

Intermittent earache is a very difficult condition to treat in any system of medicine. There is a wide variety of potential causes, and it's not unusual for people to find that it disappears at the very moment they have a medical appointment to look at it!



The strength of Chinese medicine is that it treats the person, not the illness, and so the signs and symptoms of disease are often seen in a much wider context which makes sense of their unique pattern within the overall theoretical system. On occasions like this it may mean that there are specific treatment protocols which a practitioner might use. Even without a clear pattern emerging there is still the underlying belief that symptoms are merely alarm bells for states of internal disharmony, and traditional treatment was often premised on reinstating balance on a more general basis in the expectation that a system in balance stopped generating symptoms.


The huge range of possible causes means that there is no accepted research that one can point to as evidence that acupuncture is proven for any specific types of earache, although there are many trials from China which are methodologically flawed which suugest that acupuncture may help. Our best advice is that you consult a BAcC member local to you and ask their advice face to face on whether there is something which can be done for your unique presentation. Our members are always happy to assess whether they think someone may benefit, and equally happy to make onward referrals to other forms of treatment if they believe that these are more likely to be effective.

Q. I have inner ear canal paresis of around 29% in my right ear and a preponderence ti the left of 27%. I have had some accupuncture treatment but was not sure my condition is treatable by accupuncture and the accupuncturist was rather young. Do you have an accuopuncturist in specializes in treating inner ear canal paresis? on your books?


A. The BAcC does not as yet recognise specialisms, although it is looking closely at how best to describe with groups practitioners who focus the majority of their work on one group, like children or pregnant women. Even where this is the case, the skills in Chinese medicine remain largely the same; it is often the additional conventional medical knowledge which defines expert practice. In theory any member of the BAcC is competent to treat people equally competently according to traditional chinese medicine principles. Clearly someone with many years of experience may have seen similar cases which could guide their thinking, but there are no practitioners of whom we are aware who focus on problems in the inner ear.



There is very little research evidence for the treatment of canal paresis with acupuncture. However, Chinese medicine operates in a way which it is difficult to put to the test in trials. Each patient is treated according to their unique and specific patterns, and the underlying premise, that if the energies of the body are in balance symptoms will resolve, means that in individual cases there can occasionally be profound changes to symptoms which have not responded to conventional treatment.


It would be fair to say, though, that even with the prevalence of people blogging their stories on the internet there are very few accounts of acupuncture having a great deal of effect on this problem, and we would hope that anyone offering treatment for this as a primary presentation is reviewing progress on a regular basis and not creating expectations which cannot be realised.

Q. My husband has had severe tinnitus for 3 years. He has had an MRI, CAT scan appointments with the ENT hospital with no relief.He has tried cranial osteopathy, and a Chinese acupuncturist but this didn't help either. The last course of treatment with the osteopath was about 6 months ago and the acupuncturist over a year ago. He would like to try acupuncture again please can you recommend someone with experience in tinnitus. He doesn't mind travelling to see the right person.



A. Tinnitus is one of the more intractable conditions which people seek acupuncture treatment for. Our Tinnitus fact sheet, found at lists a small amount of research which suggests that acupuncture may help, but there have been no significant trials which provide solid evidence. It is also fair to say that many practitioners are very cautious about taking on patients for whom tinnitus is the primary problem. As we can see from your husband's history of treatment, it is quite easy to spend considerable time and money and be no better off than when you started, and the individual case reports in the tinnitus sufferers' magazines often have the same shape.


We are not aware of any member who specialises in the treatment of tinnitus. However, what many practitioners do find when treating people with tinnitus is that while the noise remains largely unchanged their ability to cope with it seems to improve. Evidence for this is largely anecdotal, though, and it would be wise to discuss carefully with any future practitioner whether they think that they might be able to help. In all events we would recommend that frequent and regular reviews of outcomes and progress are essential.

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