Electro-Acupuncture Technique For Ear Disorders

Let’s face it, many ear disorders such as gradual hearing loss, tinnitus, deafness, Meniere’s disease, etc. can be difficult to treat and cure. This can be frustrating, especially if it is the main reason for the acupuncture treatments.

One way we can improve our efficacy in the treatment of ear disorders is with the addition of electro-acupuncture to our standard treatment. It is an easy and safe technique to add to your treatment protocol. However, there are a few basic acupuncture principles and techniques that need to be addressed before electro-acupuncture can be beneficial for the treatment of ear disorders.

First, we need to select the acupuncture points that will be connected with electro-stimulation. For me, I first select SI19 (Tinggong), located in the depression anterior to the tragus of the ear and secondly, GB8 (Shuaigu), located 1 cun above the apex of the ear. Both points have the functions and indications to treat ear disorders. From a western medical standpoint, both points can stimulate and treat disorders of the temporal and auricular blood vessels, trigeminal, auriculotemporal and facial nerves and local muscles. What is also interesting about GB8 is that it is located on the midpoint of the 4cm horizontal “Auditory Line,” that is 1.5cm directly above the apex of the ear in the Jiao’s Style Scalp Acupuncture and commonly used to treat all types of auditory disorders. I sometimes alternate from SI19 (Tinggong) to SJ17 (Yifeng), which allows the acupuncturist an easier needle insertion.

Next, we should pay close attention to the needling techniques of these two points. SI19 should be needled to a depth of 1 cun for a normal adult; any shallower will not have much effect. After insertion, push the needle to the desired depth slowly to avoid discomfort for the patient. If there is a sharp sensation, either the location is wrong or the needle should be withdrawn and reinserted at a slightly different angle. For GB8, we need to follow the needling techniques for scalp acupuncture for optimum effectiveness. The needle should be inserted into the skin and towards the apex of the ear at a 15-30 degree angle to a depth of 1 cun. The needle tip must reach the areolar tissues below the skin, subcutaneous connective tissues and the galea aponeurotica layer. If the needle is retained in these superficial layers, there will be a strong sensation causing the patient discomfort.

After the needles have been inserted, we need to hook up the electro-stimulation device. First, attach the positive clip (red) to GB8 and then the negative clip (black) to the front of the ear at SI19. Selecting the type of wave depends on the severity and length of the disease. An intermittent wave should be used for chronic or deficiency disorders and a dense-sparse wave for acute or excess disorders.

When turning on the machine, especially for the first treatment, increase the power extremely slowly. Pay attention to the patient’s facial expressions and communicate with the patient asking them when they can feel the stimulation, which can be described as a slight tapping at each needle. Often times, the positive clip will yield the first and stronger stimulation, however, both needles need to have stimulation to be effective. If there is pain at one or both needles, turn off the electricity and try slightly adjusting the needle depth or angle. If stimulation is only felt at one point, try increasing the electricity. If one point becomes too strong, with no stimulation at the other, the needle angle or depth will need to be adjusted as well. If the situation continues, try to switch the positive and negative clips.

The ultimate goal is to have stimulation for the patient that will be soothing and relaxing. You will need to check with the patient after 3-5 minutes to confirm there is no discomfort or pain. You may need to increase the stimulation slightly as many people become adjusted to the stimulation and can therefore handle a slight increase. This will give maximum results. Retain the electro-stimulation for the 20-25 minutes along with the standard acupuncture treatment.

Patients often start seeing improvements after 8-12 treatments. Improvements also depend on the patient’s overall health, age, medication use, and severity of the problem.

Dr. Brian Grosam