In 1895 Harvey Lillard had his hearing improved after a spinal adjustment by DD Palmer, scientists may be closer to understanding the mechanism.

January 19, 2011


DSCF0212Research in rats suggests that stimulating the vagus nerve could help stop persistent ringing in the ears. Question for lover of science is would the stimulation of mechano receptors in the spinal joints of the cervical spine or pelvis have an affect on afferent impulses of the Vagus nerve.

This is in todays Guardian by Sean Michaels


250px-Gray791Ringing the changes … Scientists may have found tinnitus cure.

American scientists claim to have developed a cure for tinnitus, a condition that causes incessant ringing in the ears. Researchers have found that by stimulating the part of the brain that causes the disorder they were able to make the ringing go away – at least for, er, rats.

According to a study published in Neuron earlier this month tinnitus is not just the result of damage or obstruction in the ear – it is brought on by the brain, which overcompensates for lost hearing. After brain scans of 22 people at Georgetown University in Washington DC, earscientists found that tinnitus occurs when one part of the brain tries to produce sounds to replace missing frequencies, and another fails to stop the unwanted sound – ringing – from reaching the auditory cortex.

In a separate paper, published last week in Nature, scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas experimented with rats, "resetting" their brains by stimulating a major cranial nerve, called the vagus. "Unlike previous treatments, we’re not masking the tinnitus, we’re not hiding the tinnitus," co-author Michael Kilgard told AFP. "We are eliminating the source of the tinnitus."

Kilgard and his colleagues electrically stimulated the vagus nerve in rats, which runs from the brain’s medulla to the abdomen. This releases chemicals such as acetylcholine and norepinephrine, which can encourage changes in the brain. By pairing the stimulation with a high-pitched tone, the scientists were apparently able to halt the rats’ tinnitus for more than three months.

Around one in 10 British adults suffers from tinnitus, which can be provoked by numerous sources – including listening to loud music. In the United States, there are 23m sufferers. These include 40% of military veterans, which requires the government to spend around $1bn in payments to tinnitus sufferers each year.

According to the lead author of the Dallas study, Dr Navzer Engineer, human trials will begin in Europe "in the coming months".

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10 Responses to In 1895 Harvey Lillard had his hearing improved after a spinal adjustment by DD Palmer, scientists may be closer to understanding the mechanism.

  1. Cervical Spine Injury on September 14, 2011 at 15:17

    Spinal Cord Injury is destroy to the spinal cord that leads to a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. Frequent causes of destroy are trauma or disease . The spinal cord does not must be severed in order for a loss of functioning to occur. Call us now on  if you are looking to make a claim..

  2. Richard Lanigan on January 19, 2011 at 22:38

    You get so much material on Twitter. Not suprisingly Blue Wodes is not impressed with my vagus nerve hypothesee. THis his “evidence based” explanation. he obviously does not believe the Harvey Lillard anecdote. this guy got his eyesight back. Which begs the questions is chiropractic a cure for blindness? I could make a million with this and Blue wode is bound to spread the word for me.

  3. Colin Jenkins on January 19, 2011 at 19:57

    OK, this is way I was looking at it. The referenced article stimulated the Vagus nerve above its normal state (in terms of neuronal flow) – i.e. made it more active than usual. A chiropractic subluxation is argued to cause a depression in state. So fixing a chiropractic subluxation is at best just restoring a normal operating state – which is a stimulation, but not a stimulation as per the article. Therefore the comparison is not valid. To work by analogy you need to over stimulate, which would then be nothing to do with a chiropractic subluxation.

  4. Stefaan Vossen on January 19, 2011 at 19:10

    I would also like to add that in my opinion “dysfunction of the spinal joints affecting the vagus nerve” as Richard states here, could, for further clarity, be interpreted as ” the quality and integrity of the neurological signal carried through the Vagus (or any other) pathway can be affected by sensory, noci- and proprioceptive “noise” caused by dysfunction of the spinal joints.”
    I also think that such “distortion” probably happens primarily at the level of the spinal cord where the most basic level of afferent input integration occurs (ref pain-gate theory), but will also happen at other higher levels.
    I just wanted to add that so that there was no room for “trapped nerve” crap…

  5. CDC on January 19, 2011 at 18:15

    I have a 60 year old woman that I been treating for chronic low back problem for approx 10 years. She have during the years worked out that getting adjusted every month works for her. Last summer she was working long hours all summer and she did not see me for 2 1/2 months. When she came in she had developed tinnitus on the left side, most likely from hanging over the computer at a desk far too low for her. I had not treated her neck before and we did 3 times a week for 3 weeks and she felt better for every week. Then she was away on vacation for two weeks and when she came back the tinnitus was getting worse again. We did another 3 times a week for 4 weeks and she then told me she was free of the tinnitus at 99%. With the tinnitus her work, social and family life were heavily effected. Without it she felt as new again.
    By the way the treatment was at no charge and I told her I was just adjusting her vertebraes in the neck and not treating her tinnitus.

  6. Richard Lanigan on January 19, 2011 at 17:52

    Hi Colin,
    Of Course a chiropractor would not attempt to stimulate the Vagus nerve directly as its origin is very high up in the brain and would require more force than one could deliver with a spinal adjustment.

    Fortunately another cranial nerve called the accessory nerve (see diagram above that I have added to the posting) controls specific muscles of the neck. I am sure Garlan could explain this much better than I but here is my version.

    Based on its location relative to other cranial nerves, it is designated the eleventh of twelve cranial nerves and why people who are falling asleep in the train suddenly wake up as the receptors are stretched and stimulate lamina in the spinal cord part of which feed into the periaquductal grey matter this can inhibit pain or make the person dozing off more alert.

    Traditional descriptions of the accessory nerve divide it into two parts: a spinal part and a cranial part. But because the cranial component rapidly joins the vagus nerve and serves the same function as other vagal nerve fibers, modern descriptions often consider the cranial component part of the vagus nerve and not part of the accessory nerve proper
    The spinal accessory nerve provides motor innervation from the central nervous system to two muscles of the neck: the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the trapezius muscle. The sternocleidomastoid muscle tilts and rotates the head, while the trapezius muscle has several actions on the scapula, including shoulder elevation and adduction of the scapula.

    The vagus nerve also inervates the reproductive organs, pelvis, and leg begin at the sacral level, which is the lowest part of the spinal cord. Dysfunction of the spinal joints in the low back could also effect the vagus nerve.

    What I am not saying is tinnitus or ear problems are always caused by spinal joint dysfunction/ subluxation. I am saying that if there is a vertebral subluxation present, or someone is obese, or they dont get any exercise; these are problems that should be addressed for the physiological systems the body requires for good health to function better and by restoring function to a spinal joint you may in fact be stimulating the vagus nerve or the cochlear nerve (hearing) indirectly.

  7. Gdglenn201 on January 19, 2011 at 17:28

    Over the years I’ve had scores of patients who’s hearing was improved after treatment. None of them cared why and all were appreciative.

  8. Colin Jenkins on January 19, 2011 at 17:11

    I have had a string of ear infections (possibly from sailing in Swansea Bay) over the last few years and coincidently had tinnitus waxing and waning during the same period; it’s driving me nuts. Any treatment, including getting pissed would give the impression of working if it was performed when it’s was at its worse (which is when folk tend to get help) because of the cyclical nature. You are right, anecdotal evidence is hazardous…

  9. Stefaan Vossen on January 19, 2011 at 16:38

    I took on a patient two weeks ago who had been suffering with severe tinnitus since August. She was referred to me by max-fac of local hospital because they believed the symptoms to originate from the neck. I offered to treat here neck and posture (chronic forward head positioning) and discussed that I did not know whether or not it would address the tinnitus (despite the way the tinnitus would get worse when the subocciptal muscles were pressed) and discussed that I could not promise that it would help. The tinnitus has now receded by 90% (3 treatment visits).
    The problem with drawing extended assumptions from anecdotal evidence however is fraught with error as I am sure we can all agree that tinnitus may have multiple causes. As it stands it looks like max-fac made an “appropriate” referral in this particular instance, the problem however is that therapists may not always make an appropriate referral to themselves…
    The argument that adjusting a patient is always appropriate does not stand up in my opinion as I feel the therapy must always firstly align itself with the patient motivation for attending the practice in the first place. I guess that is part of “patient-centred care”.

  10. Colin Jenkins on January 19, 2011 at 16:03

    So chiropractic could hypothetically help tinnitus by deliberately creating a transient subluxation (using a nerve integrity definition) to “reset” the brain as described. It would have to be a pretty violent manoeuvre via the cervical area and possibly dangerous…?


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