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Ayurveda Sadhana

Written by Dr. Marc Halpern


Part 5: The Sadhana Of Healthy Hearing


Our sense of hearing is a vital part of who we are, how we relate to the world, and on a spiritual
level it is a vital part of how we relate to the Divine. Unfortunately, as we age our ability to hear
typically begins to decline and as a result, so too does the quality of our life. Known as
presbycusis, nearly one-third of people between ages 65 and 75, and about half of those older
than age 75 will suffer from this condition. With the proper care, however, this number can be
greatly reduced.

Hearing loss is not simply an inability to hear but also an inability to understand what you hear.
With hearing loss, words sound garbled or muffled. Early indicators that a person is
experiencing hearing loss include turning up the volume on the radio and TV, and asking others
to speak more slowly or loudly.

We are able to hear sound because sound vibration or waves enter your ear and then travel to
the middle ear where your ear drum is located. These waves vibrate the ear drum along with
three small bones behind it, which are called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The vibrations pass
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into the inner ear where the cochlea is found. The cochlea is filled with nerve cells surrounded
by tiny hairs which are really nerve endings. These translate sound vibrations into neurological
information which then travels along the auditory nerve to the cortex of the temporal lobe of the
brain. Here sound is interpreted and understood.

While there are several causes of hearing loss, by far the most common is due to damage of
the hairs and nerve cells in the inner ear. These structures are damaged by loud noises, such
as ones found at a race track, music concert, near an airport, or adjacent to a construction site.
However, damage may also occur simply from turning up the iPod too high or sirens from
emergency vehicles. Additional contributing factors include age, heredity, some infections and
certain drugs. Hearing loss due to aging occurs from a combination of environmental and
genetic factors.

It is not difficult to assess hearing. Doctors utilize tests as simple as whispering to patients, to
more sophisticated techniques such as using tuning forks that vibrate at different frequencies, or
an audiometer, an instrument that create tones at various frequency and volume. If a hearing
loss is found, tests may be ordered to rule out more significant but relatively rare causes of
hearing loss.

When hearing does begin to fail, the modern western approach focuses on the use of hearing
aids that amplify sound and remove distortion while filtering out background noise. More
sophisticated still are cochlear implants; devices that attempt to compensate for the damaged
parts of the inner ear.

Our ears are not only an instrument of hearing. The ear is involved in maintaining balance, and
when the small bones of the inner ear are not functioning properly, dizziness or vertigo may be
experienced. Another common challenge is painful middle ear infections. Chronic, mild ear
infections and allergies can result in temporary hearing loss due to swelling and fluid
accumulation in the inner ear. The last of the common symptoms of disturbance is tinnitus or
ringing in the ear. Ringing may be due to a problem with the nerve endings in the cochlea and is
often caused by the same factors that result in hearing loss.

The Ear from an Ayurvedic and Yogic Perspective
The ear is a receptive organ taking in sound impressions from the environment. Prana vayu
draws you to the sounds you hear. Once sound arrives, it must be digested. Digestion of sound
is function of pitta within the inner ear. Information is then passed along the auditory nerve
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under the auspices of samana vayu to the cortex of the temporal lobe.

The ears are connected to the sahasra padma chakra, the seventh or crown chakra known as
the thousand-petal lotus. While we hear the physical world through the physical ear, in our most
subtle body, it is through our inner ears that we hear the word of the Divine. In accordance
with the development of a persons consciousness and the quietude of the mind, what is heard
is nothing at all, distorted insights or clear guidance. Ayurveda teaches that disease begins in
our most subtle or karmic body as a result of our ignorance of our true nature as spirit. It
becomes more noticeable as it progresses into the mind and we get caught up in drama. Only
later does it become noticeable in the physical body as pain or disability. As such, our inability
to hear the Divine Word and the physical word are related.

Hearing Disturbance Due to the Doshas
Most hearing loss is due to disturbance of vata dosha. Vata vitiation can result in damage to
the auditory nerve and nerve endings, which can lead to hearing loss and ringing in the ear. If
the vestibular nerve is affected, vertigo can result. When pitta is vitiated due to infection,
allergies, or autoimmune disease, inflammation in the structures of the ear causes similar
symptoms. When kapha is vitiated, the result is obstruction of the sound pathway. Types of
obstruction include: wax build up in the ear and fluid accumulation, both of which may result in
temporary hearing loss. Finally, disturbances of kapha can affect the auditory nerve resulting in
obstructions to the flow of nerve impulses.

The Sadhana of Healthy Hearing
A healthy lifestyle for the prevention of ear and hearing challenges is one that is in harmony
with a persons constitution. This begins by understanding the balance of doshas in your body
and then adopting the proper diet and lifestyle.

The sadhana of healthy hearing includes practices that maintain health of the ears and clear
hearing by improving fluid circulation and supporting the well-being of all the ears internal
structures.

Karna Purana
Karna purana is the practice of filling the ear with herbal oils. This can be done at home while
laying on ones side or in a practitioners office. At home, use a dropper to insert warm (body
temperature) herbal oil into the ear. In a practitioners office or with the support of an assistant a
larger amount of oil can be poured into the ear until it is full. After the application, lie still on your
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side for 20 minutes and let it absorb. When you are done, turn over and drain the excess oil into
a towel and then wipe the inside of the ear with a soft cloth.

By soaking the middle ear in warm oil, the tissues surrounding the ear relax and circulation
improves. This can be beneficial for ear infections, vertigo and the prevention and treatment of
hearing loss. Ayurvedic practitioners prepare different oils for individuals and conditions
depending upon the doshic imbalance. For prevention simple warm sesame oil or oil with the
herb ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) cooked into it can be used weekly. For hearing loss, the
frequency can be increased to three times per week. For vertigo and tinnitis, practitioners may
prepare jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) and ashwaganda together in the oil and apply
daily.

Listen Within
Listening within to your souls voice is one of the best treatments for the prevention of hearing
issues. Of course it is very challenging to hear the higher wisdom of the Divine, and to do so
requires that we create a quiet external and internal environment. Through meditation, the
chatter of the mind ceases and the whispers of the soul can be heard providing guidance in
every moment. This is the higher function of the seventh chakra.

Healthy Lifestyle
Our health and well-being are ultimately a reflection of our lifestyle. Where there is harmony,
there is health and where there is disharmony there is disease. Harmony for our ears is the
nectar of Nature and the wisdom of the Divine. The nectar of nature is found in the sound of the
wind moving through the trees and the water flowing over rocks. It is found in the chirping of a
bird and the howling of a coyote. The wisdom of the divine is found within the silence; the space
between experiences, and the space between our thoughts.

Dr. Marc Halpern is the founder and president of the California College of Ayurveda ( ayurveda
college.com
) and co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (ayurveda-nama.org) and the
California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine (
ayurveda-caam.org
). He is also a yogi in the lineage of Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu Devananda. Look for
his new book, Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda next spring on Lotus Press.
He can be reached at
drh@ayurvedacollege.com
or by calling (866) 541 - 6699.
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