Some evidence suggests that a misaligned spine or neck can cause ringing in your ears. But whether a chiropractor can treat tinnitus is still the subject of debate.

A chiropractor may not be the first person you think of to treat the ringing in your ears. An audiologist, neurologist, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist may seem like more intuitive choices.

But what’s important to remember is that tinnitus isn’t a disease but rather the result of another underlying condition. And some evidence suggests that one of these underlying conditions could be a misaligned spine.

Tinnitus is a neurological condition characterized by ringing, buzzing, or other sounds in one or both ears that aren’t caused by an external source. Some people have even described the sound as grinding steel, crickets, wind, trickling water, or a combination of sounds.

Tinnitus isn’t a disease in itself but a symptom of an underlying condition that disrupts the auditory pathway or the part of the brain that interprets sound.

Examples of underlying conditions that can cause tinnitus include:

Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic and can have a significant impact on your quality of life, causing anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Research suggests that about 10%–15% of adults have tinnitus. In those over age 60, this number increases to about 18%.

The link between chiropractic care and tinnitus isn’t well understood and is a topic of debate within the healthcare community.

Many chiropractors will suggest that tinnitus can arise due to a misaligned spine or neck. And there may be a link: one 2018 review found that cervical spine disorders are more common among people with tinnitus than among those without it.

It’s believed that spinal misalignments, particularly in the cervical spine (neck region), can result in nerve impingement or irritation, leading to disruptions in nerve signals that may affect the auditory system and result in tinnitus.

And while research is lacking on the effectiveness of chiropractic care for tinnitus, there are several anecdotal reports and a few promising small-scale studies.

A 2010 case study described a woman with Meniere’s disease (inner ear disorder) and left-sided tinnitus who underwent chiropractic care, including manipulation to the upper cervical and thoracic spine. Within 2 weeks of treatment, her tinnitus had resolved.

Chiropractors may use a variety of techniques to treat tinnitus, including:

  • Spinal adjustment: A chiropractor may use spinal manipulation or adjustments to realign the spine and relieve any pressure on the nerves that may be contributing to tinnitus.
  • Atlas orthogonal technique: This technique focuses on the upper cervical spine, particularly the atlas (C1) vertebra. The chiropractor will use a gentle instrument to adjust the atlas vertebra, which can help to alleviate pressure on the nerves and improve blood flow to the inner ear.
  • Cranial sacral therapy: This technique involves gentle manipulation of the skull and sacrum to restore proper alignment and movement of the bones in the head and neck region. By improving the movement of the bones and the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, cranial sacral therapy may help to alleviate tinnitus.
  • Neck massage: Massaging the jaw and neck can help release tension in your muscles and improve circulation. This may reduce the intensity of tinnitus symptoms.

Can neck adjustments help tinnitus?

Neck adjustments, such as the atlas orthogonal technique, may help people whose tinnitus is linked to a neck injury or misalignment.

In particular, cervicogenic tinnitus is a type of tinnitus believed to be caused by dysfunction or injury to the cervical spine (neck). In particular, it’s thought that the nerve signals from the neck area are perceived by the brain as sound, leading to the sensation of tinnitus.

Treatment for cervicogenic tinnitus may involve managing the underlying neck condition, such as physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, or medication.

In a case study from 2016, a person who had lived with chronic “untreatable” cervicogenic tinnitus for 20 years experienced remission within 4 weeks of applying a cervical collar.

Approaches that can help manage and reduce the severity of tinnitus may include:

  • Address underlying conditions: Treating any underlying conditions, such as hearing loss, ear infections, or neurological disorders, may help reduce the severity of tinnitus.
  • Sound therapy: Various sound-based therapies, such as white noise, pink noise, or nature sounds, can be used to help mask the sound of tinnitus and make it less noticeable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help people with tinnitus learn to cope with the condition and reduce its negative impact on their quality of life.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): TRT is a form of sound therapy that combines counseling with sound masking to help the brain learn to ignore the sound of tinnitus.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, may be prescribed to help manage the emotional and psychological symptoms associated with tinnitus.
  • Earwax removal: In some cases, tinnitus may be caused or worsened by earwax blockage, so earwax removal may alleviate the symptoms.

What kind of doctor treats tinnitus?

There’s no one specific type of doctor that exclusively treats tinnitus. Depending on the underlying cause of tinnitus, different healthcare professionals may be involved in the treatment plan.

Here are some examples of healthcare professionals that may be involved in the treatment of tinnitus:

  • primary care physicians
  • audiologists
  • ear, nose, and throat specialists
  • neurologists

While still a topic of debate within the healthcare community, the ability of chiropractors to treat tinnitus may gather more evidence in time.

If you’re experiencing tinnitus, it’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. They can determine the underlying cause of your tinnitus and recommend appropriate treatment options based on your specific condition.