Most people think that chiropractic care is only for back problems. In fact, the first ever chiropractic adjustment performed was not to treat back pain, but instead for a patient with hearing loss. Since then, a great deal has changed in terms of the acceptance of chiropractic care, as well as the conditions and range of patients it can treat. Even today, although most patients come to see him for back pain, Dr. Nathen Horst can still treat partial or full hearing loss with a spinal adjustment to relieve pressure on the nerves leading to the ear structure.
The First Chiropractic Patient
In 1895, a man named D.D. Palmer was practicing magnetic healing out of his office in Davenport, Iowa. The janitor for the building, William Harvey Lillard, had complained to Palmer about his almost complete hearing loss for the previous 17 years. Lillard stated that he had heard a pop in his back after standing up from an extended stooped over position. He lost his hearing almost immediately after hearing the pop. Lillard claimed to have been to a number of doctors, to no avail, and that he could not even hear the ticking of a watch.
When Palmer examined Lillard’s spine, he found a lump between the shoulder blades. Palmer reasoned that this lump was the cause of Lillard’s hearing loss due to misalignment of the vertebrae (called a vertebral sublaxation), and offered to put Lillard’s spine back into proper alignment and hopefully restore his hearing. When he re-aligned Lillard’s spine, the hearing was almost immediately fully restored following two treatment sessions. That treatment set Palmer on the road to founding the first ever school of chiropractic in 1897 and becoming the father of the entire chiropractic profession.
How Chiropractic Care Can Treat Hearing Loss
Palmer surmised that the lump between Lillard’s shoulder blades was, in fact, misaligned vertebrae that were pressing, or impinging, upon nerves leading to the ear structure, thereby affecting Lillard’s hearing. In fact, this is the basis for how chiropractic care can treat hearing loss. While the spine itself is often the major root cause for deafness, particularly in the cervical (neck) area, hearing loss may also be as a result of temporomandibular joint pain in the jaw or a symptom of other diseases, such as Ménière disease.
There are a number of individual case reports that show the benefit of chiropractic care for treating hearing loss. However, there have also been studies that provide stronger evidence for this. One such study was published in the Jan. 19, 2006 issue of the journal Chiropractic & Osteopathy. Fifteen patients with varying degrees of hearing loss and back pain were slated to receive chiropractic treatment and then have their hearing tested again immediately following the spinal adjustment. Before the adjustment, patients could hear 55 tones in the right ear and 83 in the left ear (normal hearing should be able to identify 120 tones in each ear). After one adjustment, the patients’ hearing increased to 104 tones in the right ear and 111 tones in the left ear.