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Can You Hear Me Now?

Hearing loss is more than just a pain in the neck; it's a brain thing too. How to test your hearing and improve through chiropractic care.

If you can't turn up the volume on your television without waking the neighbors, consider a visit to your local chiropractor. Research suggests that mild to moderate hearing loss can be improved or restored by a single chiropractic visit. According to a study published in the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy, 15 patients who had been diagnosed with significant hearing loss volunteered for a routine spinal adjustment. Of the 15, 6 had their hearing restored completely, 7 showed improvement, and 2 did not change.

According to Joseph Di Duro, a researcher and chiropractic neurologist at Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research in Davenport, Iowa, the biggest improvements occurred where patients needed it most—in the quieter decibel levels in everyday conversations. A year later, the researchers followed up on 3 of the study participants—all showed their hearing had remained improved and intact.

One in every 10 Americans has some kind of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. And as baby boomers reach retirement, this number is expected to double by the year 2030. Di Duro says that hearing loss is one of the toughest medical problems to address because it's slow to develop, not screened regularly, and often goes unnoticed. More and more, Di Duro's regular patients reported their hearing improved after chiropractic adjustments. "Patients said, 'I can hear my alarm go off now,' or 'I don't have the TV so loud anymore,'" says Di Duro, "This made me think: What the heck is going on?"

Regular visitors to the chiropractic table might be surprised to learn that the first adjustment given in 1895 wasn't for back pain at all. It instead cured the patient's deafness on the spot. In another more recent case, a 36-year-old soccer player, who slammed the ball with his head and suffering severe hearing loss, had his hearing restored after a few adjustments to his spine and neck. Di Duro has been studying this intricate relationship between the nervous system, the brain, and the body.

"I believe it's a left-brain deficit," says Di Duro of the potential cause for hearing loss and the reason why improvements tend to be most prominent in the right ear. "The left side of your brain runs speech and word recognition. If that part starts to become a little sleepy, then you'll lose more hearing in your right ear."

Di Duro's theory is based on findings from chiropractic neurology. Experts speculate that spinal manipulations spark a response back to a muscle, a joint, or the periphery, and into the central nervous system where it affects a wide range of neurological problems, including hearing deficits. Chiropractic neurology patients have reported relief from vertigo, learning disorders, pain, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and other problems.

How do you know if you have a hearing problem? Aside from the TV volume being stuck on red, common symptoms include: constantly asking others to repeat themselves, difficulty hearing in groups or in noisy situations, trouble knowing where sounds are coming from, trouble understanding when someone talks to your from another room, and ringing sounds or other noises in your ears.

To test your hearing: Hold your watch near one ear, now switch to the other. Is there a difference? You can also rub your fingers together quietly and see if you can hear a difference from ear to ear. Chiropractors regularly perform tuning fork tests and ear doctors can give comprehensive hearing exams. If it turns out your ears could use a little, or a lot, of fine-tuning, don't worry. Consult your doctor then consider giving a chiropractic neurologist a crack at it.