If you often hear ringing, clicking, buzzing, or other sounds that are not externally present, this might be tinnitus. Tinnitus—the perception of noise in the ears—is a common problem, affecting about 1 in 5 people today. It isn’t a condition itself, it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, including hearing loss or ear injury. 

Tinnitus can happen at any age and peaks among 60- to 69-year-old patients. However, in the past seven years, Dr. Jennifer Liang, licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) and a second generation traditional Chinese medicine doctor at Northern Medical Center, New York, noticed tinnitus becoming common among younger patients as well. 

“Our living environment has become much louder. To give you an example, in ancient times, many string music instruments used beef tendon as strings. Think how light this sound is. That’s how generally quiet the ambience and living environment was in ancient times. If you use these strings on a guitar today, the sound will be too quiet to hear.”

According to traditional Chinese medicine, even though the patients display similar symptoms, everyone’s situation is considered unique. Thus every patient’s treatment is different. 

Interestingly, it’s more common for a female patient to experience tinnitus symptoms in her right ear, while for a male patient it is in his left ear. If the opposite is true, the patient will normally respond better to treatment. 

A patient suffering from tinnitus for four months is cured in two sessions

Steve D., 40, was experiencing painful tinnitus symptoms for four months. Steve was also hearing a constant, low-pitched sound. He didn’t realize the sound wasn’t coming from any external source and even bought a new refrigerator, believing the irritating noise was produced by his old refrigerator.

Dr. Liang diagnosed Steve with phlegm and tinnitus. She used traditional Chinese medicine treatments, including acupuncture and moxibustion (burning dried mugwort on particular points on the body). Dr. Liang also treated Steve’s imbalanced yin and yang and prescribed auricular acupuncture (herb seeds attached to the ear points and then pressed on). 

After the first treatment, Steve felt a significant reduction in the symptoms intensity and experienced the pain only once during the week that followed. The second treatment session was then performed. 

After three weeks of observation, it was confirmed the tinnitus symptoms had ceased completely and didn’t return.

Three years of tinnitus pain soothed after a month of treatment

David Y., 36, a patient with three years of tinnitus history, turned to Dr. Liang to ease his insomnia. Tinnitus can cause severe insomnia, and severe insomnia leads to severe tinnitus, turning into a vicious circle. David even underwent nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of his brain in order to rule out a brain tumor.

After a month of systemic treatments prescribed by Dr. Liang, his tinnitus and insomnia symptoms were significantly alleviated, allowing David to return to his pre-tinnitus lifestyle.

Usually, the treatment period is longer for a patient with a longer tinnitus history.

Acupuncture needles and Chinese herbal medicine selection. (iStock)

Tinnitus in both ears is cured after two months of treatment

Jullian L., 40, came with a complaint of hearing a buzzing noise in both ears. The noise was more pronounced in the morning, disrupting Jullian’s lifestyle and leaving her feeling miserable for most of the day. Simultaneously, Jullian had noticed her sense of hearing had started to decline. When the alarm went off, other members of the family would hear it, but Jullian would not.

After two weeks of treatments, Chinese herbal formulas xiao yao and liuwei dihuang were added to the acupuncture treatment. Xiao yao (loosely translated from Chinese as “enjoy life”), is a mix of eight herbs: Bupleurum root, Chinese angelica root, white peony root, poria, bighead atractylodes rhizome, roasted ginger, prepared licorice root, menthol, and peppermint. Liuwei dihuang is a traditional Chinese herbal formula of three toning herbs (rehmannia, cornus, and dioscorea), and three draining herbs (alisma, moutan, hoelen). 

Tinnitus of both ears was cured after eight weeks of treatment and Jullian returned to her normal daily routine.