Can Ear Seeds Provide Relief From Tinnitus?

Map of ear seed diagram

Ear seeds, a type of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), use acupressure to alleviate symptoms of many different conditions affecting the ear, including tinnitus. The use of ear seeds, acupressure, and acupuncture as a whole has been hotly and widely debated, but there are numerous studies identifying the value of these interventions in addressing issues as diverse as pain and nausea, and mental health. From addressing primary insomnia to addressing issues with the internal organs, TCM has been used for thousands of years. This includes acupressure and acupuncture, which do not come with the risk of an allergic reaction, and can be used to address many different issues at once. Can ear seeds, a type of TCM, truly help tinnitus? First, we will take a deeper look at what an ear seed is, and how it may benefit people with tinnitus.

What Are Ear Seeds?

Ear seeds are tiny beads attached to an adhesive sticker. The sticker is then applied to pressure points on the ear related to various health concerns, including tinnitus. Applying ear seeds is relatively painless and easy, and functions as a form of auricular acupressure. Auricular acupressure stimulates acupuncture pressure points without needles to achieve the same result. Auricular acupressure can help promote comfort and relaxation, which can help ease symptoms of tinnitus within the ear. It can also be used as a way to modulate pain threshold levels, which can also be useful for people whose tinnitus is a result of infection or injury.

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Although we are discussing ear seeds as a potential form of relief for tinnitus, they can also be used to relieve pain, promote improved sleep, relieve anxiety symptoms, and relieve ongoing symptoms of tinnitus. It is a great alternative for anyone who is nervous about auricular acupuncture and its use of needles. Ear seeds are traditionally made from vaccaria seeds, a type of herb, but may also be made of metal or ceramic.

What Is Acupressure?

While ear acupuncture and acupressure might sound intriguing, many people are still unfamiliar with acupressure as a whole, let alone ear acupressure. Acupressure is recognized as the application of pressure–typically with the thumbs or fingertips, though other sources of contact can be used–to meridians in the body. Meridians are identified in acupuncture as different energetic points within the body. Acupuncture has been used for years in TCM to relieve pain and tension, and there are countless studies and anecdotal sources of evidence that suggest its value as a pain relief practice.

How Do You Use Ear Seeds?

Ear seeds can be put in place by a practitioner or on your own, though it is typically advised to consider it a medical treatment completed by a professional. In ear seeding, a practitioner will clean the area to which the ear seeds will be applied, then place them with waterproof tape on the outer ear–never within the ear canal. The precise placement depends on the issue being addressed, as different “maps” or different points on the ear are identified as the best pressure point for specific ailments and needs. The seeds will be gently massaged 2-3 times per day, in small circles, to provide the auricular therapy. Ear seeds can be removed to allow the pressure points to rest for a few days, before they are replaced and therapy begins again.

What Conditions Are Ear Seeds Commonly Used To Treat?

Ear seeds, though they are used as a general means to relieve symptoms of many different conditions, are most commonly used to address several specific points in the body. Once you place ear seeds, you may see an improvement in the following:

One randomized clinical trial showed that consistent use of ear seeds resulted in a significant reduction in chronic pain levels, which is encouraging for those seeking ear seeds as a form of pain relief.

Is There A Specific Way To Use Ear Seeds To Alleviate Tinnitus?

Ear seeds being placed

The tenets of traditional Chinese medicine do argue that specific points on the ear correlate to specific needs. Treating chronic tinnitus will likely require the help of a practitioner, as this particular traditional Chinese medicine technique is not easily completed alone, and placing ear seeds correctly can be difficult. Rather than trying to place ear seeds yourself, reach out to a professional in your area to have them placed properly.

Ear seeds and acupressure as a whole are commonly used to induce feelings of relaxation and comfort, which means that they may contribute to tinnitus improvements indirectly. Stress and anxiety frequently exacerbate symptoms of tinnitus, so auricular acupressure combined with relaxation may help relieve some of the more common symptoms and side effects of tinnitus.

Are Ear Seeds An Effective Treatment For Tinnitus?

Because acupressure and acupuncture have both been used with great success, many people are intrigued at the prospect of using ear acupressure for tinnitus relief. One study conducted in 2018 suggested that acupuncture could be used to help the sounds associated with tinnitus sound quieter or less severe. Similar studies determined that stimulating certain pressure points around the ear can also improve hearing sensitivity when hearing loss is present. However, further evidence is still needed in both areas. Since ear seeds are a form of acupressure, they are not exactly the same as acupuncture, but they utilize the same pressure points used in acupuncture, and therefore have the potential to create similar results.

Standard Tinnitus Treatments

Two women sitting across from each other having a conversation

There are numerous tinnitus treatments currently offered to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus and improve quality of life. Whether or not ear seeds work for you and your tinnitus needs, there are several tried-and-true interventions that can help relieve tinnitus symptoms. The most common and effective of these include:

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). Tinnitus retraining therapy is an intervention that uses sound therapy and mental health intervention in combination to essentially “retrain” the body and brain’s response to tinnitus symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a mental health intervention, which may not initially appear to be related to ringing in the ears. Nevertheless, it can be a useful treatment for tinnitus, because it can help ease the anxiety and depression that so often accompanies chronic ringing in the ears.
  • Hearing aids. Hearing aids are standard treatments for hearing loss, but may not always be the first thought when ear ringing begins. Nevertheless, hearing aids can help, by improving hearing itself, and to provide ongoing background noise throughout the day, to help develop less discomfort regarding the sounds of tinnitus.
  • Sound therapy. Sound therapy is most frequently used with hearing aids, though it can also be used with a sound machine that is not nestled directly within the ears. Sound therapy uses white noise or background noise to help acclimatize tinnitus patients to the sounds they are hearing, and to lessen the experience of hearing ringing, buzzing, or rushing.
  • Multidisciplinary intervention. Any of the above-mentioned interventions can be used on its own, but they are typically considered most advantageous when they are used in conjunction with one another. CBT and TRT can be used together, and sound therapy is considered a vital part of TRT. Hearing aids can be used in both TRT and sound therapy to emphasize the benefits of each. In a multidisciplinary approach, a professional such as an audiologist or ENT will lead the therapies and check in regularly.

Although there are relatively few studies evaluating tinnitus as a whole, as more and more research evaluates the effects of tinnitus and potential interventions for symptoms, the more self help intervention becomes available, including the ability to use tiny seeds to gently massage certain points on and around the ears to soothe the overwhelming sounds of tinnitus. Even if ear seeds are only used to relax the entire body rather than create a specific effect within the ears, they can be a useful addition to an overall treatment regimen prescribed or conducted by an audiologist and treatment team.

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