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January 6, 2003

Chiropractor helps Liz get her hearing back

From: Illawarra Mercury, Australia - 07 Jan 2003

January 7, 2003

LIZ Drummond recalls her despair when told she had an incurable condition that would probably send her deaf.

Diagnosed with Meniere's syndrome, she suffered frightening vertigo or dizziness, vomiting, ringing in the ears and hearing loss in her right ear.

A teacher, Ms Drummond often couldn't hear her students.

The ringing, or tinnitus, was excruciating. Visiting a noisy restaurant or the movies were out of the question. She became easily disoriented and driving was terrifying.

It was easier to stay home.

Not any more. Ms Drummond credits a "tenacious" Wollongong chiropractor with relief and a marked improvement in hearing.

After years of trouble, followed by 19 months of sustained hearing loss, Ms Drummond visited Robert Cowin.

She was convinced her symptoms became worse with bouts of neck pain, the result of a car accident years earlier.

Nine years later, her hearing and quality of life have dramatically improved, and symptoms have abated.

"The high point was when I realised hearing in my right ear had improved," Ms Drummond said.

"I could actually hear what other people were hearing. I never thought that was a possibility. It was a wonderful feeling."

Ms Drummond once thought her mainstream teaching career was over. She's since attained two degrees and now teaches at university.

She has not been "cured" but believes the disease's progression has been substantially slowed.

Mr Cowin's joint article with Peter Bryner on her case appeared in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia's December issue. The editors described it as a "landmark".

Ms Drummond's painstaking diary-keeping, helped Mr Cowin track her progress over seven years.

It's the most detailed study of the impact of neck adjustment on Meniere's disease.

Significantly, it showed that ear symptoms developed repeatedly after neck symptoms.

Even better: "Severe and mild episodes of ear and neck symptoms repeatedly and rapidly abated after neck adjustments," Mr Cowin said.

While symptoms fluctuated, Ms Drummond's "improved quality of life" was maintained.

He observed that hearing fluctuated according to neck displacement.

He's also pleased to have helped curb dizzy spells and put some balance back into her life.

"Vertigo must be one of the most frightening things for a human to experience," he said.

"After all, our relationship to gravity is what all our learning is built on."

But Mr Cowin is not your traditional chiropractic clicker. He uses a gentle "hammer" technique to persuade the fragile bones of the neck to realign.

In Ms Drummond's case, the atlas - the bone at the top of the spine - and the two vertebrae below were chronically out of alignment.

The atlas includes two "rollers" which support all movements of the skull.

Ms Drummond prefers to think in pictures.

"Your head is shaped like a bowling ball and is as heavy as a bowling ball," she said.

"And those little bones must support all that weight."

Ms Drummond is convinced her atlas is doing a much better job of supporting her world, thanks to Mr Cowin.

"He just genuinely cares for his patients and is passionate about his profession," she said.

Mr Cowin is delighted by the results and hopes his paper goes some way to helping mainstream medicine think again.

With glee, he quotes a Swedish dentist and Meniere's investigator, frustrated after attending a conference on the disease in Paris, where four separate papers on neck adjustment were ignored.

He had the final word by email: "I think the otologists are lost in the labyrinth."

In other words, the specialists were lost in the inner workings of the ear, when the real clue was a pain in the neck.

Copyright © 2002 Illawarra Mercury