Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear or head that does not arise from the external environment, from within the body (e.g., vascular sounds), or from auditory hallucinations related to mental illness.   It is very common and is reported in all age groups, even young children. About 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives but the number of people who live with persistent tinnitus is approximately 13% (over 1 in 8). Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss or other ear problems, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing.

Clinic Director Hugh MacPherson co-authored a small trial to explore patient perceived benefits of acupuncture for tinnitus. The patients who participated in the trials, each received 10 treatments and completing all Daily Diary entries and outcome measures. Results showed a reduction in loudness and pitch as well as a reduction in the number of waking hours affected.   There were also improvements in quality of sleep. Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) and Measure Your Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP) measures showed a trend of improvement after treatment.(Jackson & MacPherson 2006)) 

Acupuncture may help relieve tinnitus by:

  • acting on the cochlea, specifically on the contractile activity of outer hair cells (Azevedo 2007);
  • acting on the function of the efferent olivocochlear system to suppress otoacoustic emissions (Azevedo  2007);
  • altering the brain’s chemistry, increasing neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009), and reducing serotonin levels (Zhou 2008);
  • reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory actors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003);
  • increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling


Jackson A, MacPherson H, Hahn S. Acupuncture for tinnitus: a series of six n=1 trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2006; 14(1): 39-46. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16473752)

To book an appointment with Hugh MacPherson, contact the York Clinic on 01904-709688 or email info@yorkclinic.com