Science In Brief

Chiropractic Literature Review


The Study: An audiometric study of the effects of paraspinal stimulation on hearing acuity in human subjects - understanding the Harvey Lillard phenomenon

The Facts:

  1. Some of you will soon begin to wonder why I reported on this article but bear with me for a moment.
  2. DD Palmer adjusted a vertebra in the thoracic spine of Harvey Lillard and his hearing was restored.
  3. Others have reported patients having lost their hearing due to spinal injury or having it restored by spinal manipulation.
  4. The authors cite an alternative theory that Lillard's hearing loss was not due to nerve impingement as Palmer inaccurately surmised at the time but instead was caused by the following mechanism: "altered sensory input from Harvey Lillard's back injury may have altered the central processing of information from his ears."
  5. The authors wished to test this alternative mechanism and therefore set up the present study.
  6. They applied TENS to the upper thoracic spines of healthy subjects.
  7. They measured the hearing acuity during the administration of both TENS and a sham TENS.
  8. There was no difference in the auditory acuity between the real and sham TENS applications.
  9. They concluded that innocuous afferent input into the upper thoracic paraspinal muscles did not affect thresholds of audibility.

Take Home:

TENS stimulation of the upper thoracic area did not affect hearing.

Reviewer's Comments:

So why did I cover this article. First I thought it was a good idea to test alternative theories as to how treatment/injuries to the spine might have an effect on hearing acuity. This study showed found that TENS stimulation of healthy subjects didn't affect their hearing and used that to reject this new theory. Nothing wrong with the authors or their study. But I've been around awhile and I am sure that if we give it a few years that those people who only read abstracts and often not even that, will be telling me of a study which proves chiropractic adjustments can't possibly have any effect on hearing and that is not what this study says.

One of the reasons I write this column is that along with a lot of good information that is being discussed, there is always the possibility of bad information being disseminated. Whether an article supports or refutes your thoughts on a subject, it should be given the weight that it is due and evaluated fairly. So pass Science in Brief on to your friends, the more they read (not only this column but also the whole papers which interest them) the better the chiropractic profession will become. And it is a great profession.

Reviewer: Roger Coleman DC

Editor's Comments:

Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold. (Leo Tolstoy)

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. (Thomas Alva Edison)

Editor: Mark R. Payne DC

Reference: Demers M, Gajic Z, Gerretsen E, Budgell B. An audiometric study of the effects of paraspinal stimulation on hearing acuity in human subjects - understanding the Harvey Lillard phenomenon. Chiropr Man Therap 2014;22:39.

Link to Abstract:

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