Naturopathic Medicine for Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is commonly characterized in one of two ways: as conductive or sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves do not travel through the ear in a normal fashion. They are blocked by some kind of obstruction in the ear, such as a buildup of wax or a foreign body present in the ear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs because of damage to the nerves and/or hair cells that respond to sound waves. Hearing loss is a common feature of aging. By some estimates, a quarter of all Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 have at least some degree of hearing loss. The treatment of hearing loss depends on its cause. In some cases, simply cleaning one’s ears can improve hearing. In severe cases, surgery may be required. Hearing loss in older people cannot be cured or reversed, but mechanical hearing aids are available to improve hearing. Naturopathic practitioners regard hearing loss as a condition that results from deficiencies or imbalances in the body that can be treated by a variety of natural materials and methods.

How Is Naturopathic Medicine Used to Treat Hearing Loss?

A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) has a host of procedures available for the treatment of hearing loss. The specific treatment selected depends on information obtained about the patient’s overall health as the result of an exhaustive interview and a physical examination. In some cases, the cause of hearing loss may be simple: a buildup of wax in the ear, which can be relieved easily by mechanical means. In other cases, the cause of hearing loss may be much more serious, such as physical damage to some part of the ear. In this case, the patient may have to be referred to an allopathic physician who specializes in disorders of the ear. A naturopath’s treatments lie between these two extremes: he or she may use a variety of procedures and materials to improve the patient’s general health and enhance his or her body’s ability to fight the causes of hearing loss.

Nutritional Changes
In some cases, nutritional adjustments may be needed to eliminate certain foods from the patient’s daily diet. Some food components that may be related to hearing loss include heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, salt (which may cause an accumulation of water in the ear), saturated fats, wheat products, and refined sugar and sugar products. Dietary supplements may improve the body’s immune system and strengthen the body overall. Some evidence suggests that manganese, vitamin, A, vitamin E, members of the vitamin B family, and alpha-lipoic acid may also help protect against hearing loss. Other dietary components that can contribute to improved general health and protection against hearing loss include whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and cold water fish, such as albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, salmon, and trout. Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids recommended for their antioxidant properties. Herbs that have been recommended for the improvement of hearing include gingko (Ginkgo bilboa), periwinkle (Vinca minor), and butcher’s bloom (Ruscus aculeatus).

Lifestyle Changes
Changes in lifestyle are often helpful also, and can sometimes be obvious. For example, a person who is exposed to loud noises on a regular basis should wear ear protection to reduce the likelihood of developing hearing loss. Smokers should cut down or discontinue their habit, since evidence is clear that smokers are at significantly higher risk for hearing problems than are non-smokers. Naturopathic practitioners may recommend that patients avoid a number of synthetic chemicals used in allopathic medicine, including some antibiotics, analgesics, immunosupressants, oral contraceptives, and mood-altering drugs.

Physical Treatments
Physical procedures are also available for the treatment of hearing loss. A chiropractic adjustment can help relieve pressure that contributes to hearing loss. A special procedure known as Sound Therapy has also been developed to treat hearing loss and to prevent hearing loss from occurring in the first place. Sound Therapy involves the use of sound tapes to “exercise” the ear and expose it to higher frequencies that are encountered in one’s daily life, thereby strengthening the hearing process.

Visiting a Naturopathic Doctor for a through examination will determine which treatment methods are best suited to decrease your hearing loss and prevent further damage.

What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is a method of preventing and treating disorders of the body and mind by diagnosing imbalances in the body that contribute to the development of those disorders. The naturopath uses this information to recommend natural treatments—procedures and substances—that aid the body’s immune system to protect itself against diseases. The naturopath sees himself or herself not only as a partner in the healing process, but also as an educator who helps a patient to better understand changes that can be made to ensure better health in the future.

How Does Hearing Loss Develop?

Hearing is a process that begins when sound waves strike the outer ear and are then transmitted through the middle ear and inner ear by conduction. That is, they pass through a system of solid and liquid materials (bones and fluids) until they reach the auditory nerve at the innermost part of the ear. The sound waves then stimulate those nerves, and the tiny hairs with which they are associated, creating an electrical signal that is transmitted to the brain. The brain then “reads” those electrical signals and interprets them as specific sound patterns. Hearing loss develops when there is an interruption in the first part of this process—when sound waves are unable to travel through the outer, middle, and inner ears—or when damage occurs to the hair cells or auditory nerve that are designed to receive and transmit those sound waves.

Additional Resources

Hoffer, Abram, and Jonathan Prousky. Naturopathic Nutrition: A Guide to Nutrient-rich Food and Nutritional Supplements for Optimum Health. Toronto: CCNM Press, 2006.

Thiel, Robert J. Combining Old and New: Naturopathy for the 21st Century. Warsaw, IN: Whitman Publications, 2001.

Williams, Maureen. “Folic Acid Prevents Age-Related Hearing Loss.”

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