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August 24, 2011

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TCM music therapy eases ear-ringing

Music heals and music therapy is used to reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and reduce chronic pain of many kinds.

Chinese researchers have recently identified a new therapeutic use for music: to reduce ringing in the ears, or at least its perception, and to reduce the discomfort that goes along with it.

Using music to treat physical and psychological ailments goes back thousands of years in China. Ancient Chinese ascribed healing properties to the five notes (do, re, mi, so and la) in Chinese music; this is because they were believed to correspond to five moods, five organs and five basic elements. This correspondence between particular sounds and physical and mental health was recorded long ago and compiled more than 2,000 years ago in texts that are known as the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine.

It indicates that music composed in the note of "do" benefits and rebuilds the energy balance in the heart; "re" benefits the liver, "mi" benefits the spleen, "so" benefits the lungs, and "la" benefits the kidneys.

Some psychologists use music to help patients relax so they become more open to counseling and discussion. But music can also help free people from annoying ear-ringing problems, based on both Chinese and Western theories about music therapy, according to Dr Li Ming, chief physician of the Ear and Throat Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ear-ringing bothers an estimated 12-32 percent of the global population, according to Dr Li, who says the causes are complicated, which makes it difficult to cure.

"Though causes can be found in some patients, there is no effective cure," says Dr Li. "We can only relieve the symptoms and decrease the accompanying discomfort. Patients probably have to live with the sound in their lives."

The aim is to help patients get used to the annoying sound, gradually push it into the background and try to "forget" it to lead a normal life. Ear-ringing impairs ability to function and socialize; it causes stress, insomnia and other problems.

Patients should avoid quiet environments, where the sound in their own heads dominate.

Music helps create a world with comfortable sounds and also improves mood, according to Dr Li. Other therapeutic sounds come from the natural world and include sounds of water flowing, rain, tides, wind and birds singing.

In addition, melodies that are specially composed and based on the TCM "Five Notes Therapy" has been found to help in many cases, says Dr Li. It helps patients disregard the ringing, while it also readjusts the energy imbalance in the body that may trigger ear-ringing. These TCM energy imbalances are usually not diagnosed in Western medicine.

A complete TCM exam diagnosis is necessary and then a computer program composes a melody suited to that individual, says Dr Li.

He advises patients to listen to the melody at least three times a day, 30 minutes each time. The sound should not be louder than the ringing in the ears.


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