Blocked or clogged ears occur when the eustachian tubes inside your ears fill with fluid. Sinus infections, cold and flu viruses and allergies can inflame the linings in your ears, leading to blocked passages. Though not a cure, acupuncture can help relieve ear pressure and congestion. Targeting the underlying causes of clogged ears is the best way to alleviate symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your condition before trying acupuncture.
Blocked Ears and Modern Medicine
Otitis media, or an ear infection, is a common cause of blocked or clogged ears. Allergies, cigarette smoke and enlarged tonsils can also clog eustachian tubes. Particularly prevalent in children -- who have narrower eustachian tubes -- obstructed ears can cause or worsen an infection, trapping bacteria in the ear canal. Over-the-counter medications, like antihistamines, decongestants and ear drops, are often recommended by physicians. If caused by bacteria, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
The Ear in Chinese Medicine
Several organ meridians, or energy pathways, circle the ear, according to the textbook "A Manual of Acupuncture" by Peter Deadman. The gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and triple burner meridians all have points around the ear that can impact ear imbalances. The kidney is believed to "open" into the ear, and its energy, or qi -- pronounced "chee" -- plays a major role in ear health. The gallbladder channel is also indicated for ear disorders, especially those due to heat. Wind is also a potential cause of clogged ears, as is excess fluid, known as dampness in Chinese medicine. Points that regulate or expel wind and dampness may be selected during your treatment.
The points your practitioner selects will depend on the root cause and severity of your symptoms. He may also recommend herbal remedies to support the acupuncture treatments. Deadman's textbook recommends gallbladder point 20 for blocked ears. Located at the base of the skull, approximately 2 inches from the body's mid-line, this point can relieve congestion and ringing in the ears. Kidney point 7, found 2 inches above the inner ankle bone, is indicated for draining dampness and clearing damp-heat. Local points, those around the ear, can also be used. Triple burner 17 and gallbladder 2 are two local points that are often used in acute ear infection cases. Stimulating these points can eliminate wind, drain dampness and alleviate ear congestion, ringing and pain.
What to Expect in an Acupuncture Session
Acupuncture for ear blockages is likely performed in several sessions, spread out over a week or two. Your practitioner can choose the same points, or select different points during each session, depending on your presenting symptoms. The first session can last longer than an hour, but subsequent sessions are usually an hour or less. Additional techniques, such as the burning of medicinal herbs on a needle, electrical stimulation and massage, may also be employed during your treatment session to improve results.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Otitis Media
- "A Manual of Acupuncture"; P. Deadman, et al.; 2001
- TCM Basics: Kidneys
- Yin Yang House: Acupuncture for Ear Infections
- Yin Yang House: Your First Acupuncture Treatment