The failure to sense sound is easier to detect in adults than in children. Parents of infants and young children must be alert to clues of hearing impairment in their children. Typically symptoms in infants and children with hearing disorders include the child’s failure to respond to sounds, especially loud noises. Often the child does not make sounds themselves, such as the common types of cooing and babbling that precede normal speech. Even though the child may cry normally, they do not form rudimentary words or refer to their parents as mommy and daddy. While the condition is often recognized vaguely by a parent, hearing impairment is most often diagnosed by pediatrician during a routine examination.
In adults, loss of hearing is initially experienced as a distortion of sounds, some of which are too quiet, while others are inaudible, especially the low tones and the sounds of s, f, and z. Speech is often difficult to discern over background noise, such as in restaurants. Deafness in one ear may be noticed only when the sound clearly comes from the direction at which the impaired ear is pointed.
What are Hearing Disorders?
From Modern Western Medicine
Deafness is defined as complete and partial loss of hearing. Total deafness is rare and usually present from birth. Partial hearing loss occurs most often from an injury, ear disease (including ear infections), or a more generalized illness (such as rubella) that affects hearing, and degeneration of the inner ear, usually with age. Severe jaundice right after birth can damage the ear and impair hearing. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause deafness, as can Ménière’s disease (increased fluid pressure in the labyrinth). Certain drugs and some viral infections can impair hearing. Organs within the inner ear also degenerate naturally with old age.
Hearing loss can be accompanied by tinnitus (ringing and other noises in the ear) and vertigo (loss of balance and dizziness). These secondary disorders can result in confusion, psychological imbalances (such as paranoia), and auditory hallucinations, all of which can lead to depression and withdrawal.
Hearing loss can also arise from a hole or perforation of the eardrum, which, like other tissues, can heal itself. Surgery can also be used to heal a perforated eardrum.
Hearing aids increase the volume of sound reaching the inner ear by means of an amplifier and an earphone that fits into the outer ear.
From Traditional Medicine
Hearing disorders are usually the result of poor circulation of blood, lymph, and qi within the inner ear, the instrument within the skull used to detect sound. When blood and lymph cannot circulate freely inside the ear, oxygen, nutrition, and immune cells cannot get to the tissues. Without oxygen and nutrition, tissues become deformed. Without immune cells, bacteria and other disease-causing agents proliferate in the warm environment and eventually cause disorders that impair hearing. Whenever lymph is blocked, waste products accumulate in the inner ear. Finally, qi, or life force, is essential for the health of cells and tissues, for the elimination of waste products, and for the support of the immune system.
Chinese medicine maintains that all hearing problems are related to kidney imbalances. This is especially evident in children whose diets include an abundance of refined sugars, fruit juices, and sweets, all of which weaken kidneys and result in ear infections and other ear-related problems. Therefore, in addition to treating the overall circulation and immune system of the body, the Chinese treat the kidneys as well.
Nathan Pritikin, pioneer health researcher and teacher, claimed that diet is the cause of most hearing loss. Researchers compared the hearing capabilities of a random sampling of people living in Wisconsin—the dairy-producing capital of the United States—with the African tribespeople, the Mabaans. The scientists discovered that not a single Mabaan of any age—including 70-year-olds—could be found with equal hearing loss to the 30- to 35-year-old Wisconsins who had been tested. Similar studies were conducted comparing the hearing capabilities of Finnish people with those of Yugoslavians. Finland has the highest per capita rate of coronary heart disease in the world; the average cholesterol level in Finland is 290 mg. The average cholesterol level in Yugoslavia is approximately 180 mg. Researchers found that Finnish children begin to suffer hearing loss at the age of 10, and by age 19 have distinctly impaired capacity to hear the 16,000 to 18,000 cycles per second range of sound. No such hearing loss exists among Yugoslavians.
Other studies have shown that by reducing fat and cholesterol intake, hearing capabilities markedly improve. Pritikin argued that many types of hearing disorders were due to poor circulation to the hearing organs. Plaque development in the blood vessels to the inner ear limits blood and oxygen to the hearing organ and reduces it sensitivity to sound.
Who Suffers from Hearing Disorders?
Deafness at birth is rare and incurable, occurring in one in 1,000 babies. Deafness in young children—usually curable—is common. As many as 1/4th of five-year-olds have some degree of hearing loss as a result of previous middle-ear infections.
The hearing mechanism gradually degenerates with age, and about 1/4th the population over 65 needs a hearing aid.
- Strengthen kidneys by eating foods that boost kidney strength and avoiding foods that tax kidneys.
- Avoid foods that contain refined sugars and artificial ingredients; avoid soda pop, excessive amounts of fruit juices, and sweet dairy products, all of which combine to create ear infections that weaken hearing.
- Seek out an acupuncturist to promote qi flow.
Foods to Eat
- Whole grains, especially barley
- Cooked vegetables
- Whole beans, especially black beans (excellent for kidneys)
- Tofu and tempeh
- Cooked carrots and burdock, sautéed in sesame oil and flavored with miso or tamari (excellent dish for kidneys)
- Sea vegetables, especially arame, nori, and wakame (excellent for kidneys)
- Parsley (helps with deafness)
- Mineral-rich foods to boost immunity and strengthen kidneys; sea vegetables, leafy greens (especially collard, kale, and mustard greens), and root vegetables (carrots, beets, rutabagas, and parsnips)
Foods to Avoid
- Dairy products
- Refined flour
- Raw fruit and juices
- Nuts and nut butter
- Cold liquids
- Roasted sea salt packs over ears to improve circulation: roast sea salt in dry frying pan until hot. Place salt in cotton packs and hold over ear. Allow ear to drain if fluid or wax begins to loosen and come free.
- Warm or hot ginger compress on kidneys
- Lukewarm ginger compress on mastoid bones, found behind the ear, to promote circulation in ear
- Acupressure massage, especially on kidney and gallbladder meridians