by David Rindge. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved
A growing number of clinics worldwide are treating tinnitus, hearing loss and Meniere’s disease with low intensity laser light as a primary therapy.
How effective is laser therapy?
In a study of 348 patients by Dr. Lutz Wilden, virtually everyone responded positively, and average hearing capacity increased by nearly 21%. The degree of improvement correlated with patients’ age and how long they had had the condition.1
Who may benefit?
Almost anyone with hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo or other disorders related to the ear according to Dr. Wilden, who writes, “….even serious impairments such as the most excruciating cases of tinnitus, dysacusia, morbus Menière and bradyacusia can be considerably alleviated and even healed with the aid of modern light technology and the corresponding medical management.” 2
Laser therapy has biostimulative and regenerative effects which has been documented to improve hearing loss, tinnitus, Meniere’s disease and vertigo thought to originate within the ear.
What is the nature of tinnitus, hearing loss and other ear disorders?
Tinnitus, the perception of sound without an external cause, is an emergency signal by cells in the inner ear according to Dr. Wilden. Just as placing pressure on the eyes with a finger causes one to see stars, so tinnitus may be the result of stress to the cells responsible for our sense of hearing in the inner ear.
In our modern society background noise is omnipresent, often at high levels, and our sense of hearing has been universally challenged. Wilden believes that tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, and altered sensation within the ear are often the result of what he describes as “biological exhaustion of the inner ear”, and this may be due to acute or chronic exposure to sound, antibiotics, other drugs and many other stressors.
How may laser therapy restore hearing and eliminate tinnitus?
Laser therapy has properties to promote biological function and regenerate tissue which may help re-establish normal transmission of nerve impulses. Acoustic or other trauma, including drugs and even the aging process, may damage delicate cells within the cochlea, an important sound processing structure in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss. Tinnitus is another frequent consequence in which nerves are stimulated to send impulses to the brain perceived as sound but which has no external cause. Laser therapy may also reduce middle and inner ear inflammation and even help to reverse ankylosis, fusion of the tiny bones within the ear.
Visit Laser Research in Ear Disorders (Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Meniere’s to see what researchers have reported in their own words.
Can pulsed electromagnetic field therapy help in ear disorders?
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is another energy based treatment which has been reported to have positive effects in tinnitus and hearing loss and which may complement laser treatment. In a double-blind, placebo controlled trial of 58 patients with chronic tinnitus in which active and placebo devices were randomly assigned, “Forty-five per cent of the patients who completed the trial were improved by the active device, but only 9% by placebo.” Bogomil’skii et al treated 105 children with hearing loss with low-frequency electromagnetic fields and reported, “The method was found highly effective and valuable for wide practice.” See Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy Research in Ear Disorders
What is treatment like?
Laser therapy may be administered via twin laser diodes directly into each ear while one is lying comfortably in a darkened room. For most individuals, most of the time, treatment is quite comfortable. Many fall asleep. One may experience mild warmth from the laser diodes within each ear.
As treatment progresses, the volume of tinnitus may increase, and its pitch may rise. Some may experience sensitivity to sound, pressure or other sensations. Yet these may be considered signs that treatment is working. Wilden writes, “First the patients experience an amelioration of their hearing capacity. Then the symptoms sensation of pressure in the ear and vertigo improve, and finally the ringing in the ears (= tinnitus) changes its property; having first become unsteady in volume, tone quality and frequency (which often gets higher and higher) and more easily assignable to corresponding stressors, it gradually thins down and recedes further and further into the background, until it eventually disappears for good.” 3
How many treatments will be necessary?
This depends upon the nature, degree and duration of the condition. Generally, acute conditions and younger patients are likely to respond more quickly. Long-standing, chronic conditions and older patients may require more treatment. The longer and more severe the problem, the greater the time and laser energy which may be necessary. There are no panaceas and no guarantees, yet Dr. Wilden also notes, “After thirty years of experimental and clinical research, there aren`t any known side-effects of low level laser light.”4
How effective is laser phototherapy in Meniere’s disease?
Before instituting any therapy or program in clinical practice, it is the practitioner’s responsibility to exercise good judgment and to comply with all applicable professional regulations, federal, state and local laws. As of the time of this writing, treatment of ear disorders with laser and bio-electromagnetic therapies is investigational in the United States.
To learn more about how laser and bio-electromagnetic therapies have been applied in ear disorders, click on Laser Therapy in Ear Disorders by David Rindge published in Acupuncture Today.
1 Wilden, Lutz Report on more than eight years of low level laser therapy of chronic inner ear diseases. The IXX Annual Meeting of The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. April 16-18, 1999. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. Supplement 11, 1999.
2 From http://www.dr-wilden.de/en_info/31.html