By Dr. Christopher Kent

The story of Harvey Lillard and the birth of the chiropractic profession is well known. While some have suggested it’s a mere myth, similar cases reported in the literature demonstrate that it is quite plausible. In his own words, D.D. Palmer described the event:

“Harvey Lillard, a janitor, in the Ryan Block, where I had my office, had been so deaf for 17 years that he could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or the ticking of a watch. I made inquiry as to the cause of his deafness and was informed that when he was exerting himself in a cramped, stooping position, he felt something give way in his back and immediately became deaf. An examination showed a vertebra racked from its normal position. I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored. With this object in view, a halfhour’s talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it. I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever and soon the man could hear as before. There was nothing ‘accidental’ about this, as it was accomplished with an object in view, and the result expected was obtained. There was nothing ‘crude’ about this adjustment; it was specific, so much so that no Chiropractor has equaled it.” [1]

A recent paper by DiDuro [2] describes a series of 15 hearing impaired patients (nine male and six female) ranging in age from 3471 years. They were evaluated with a Welch Allyn AudioScope 3 at four frequencies and three standard decibel levels before and after a single chiropractic adjustment. At 40 dB, using the Ventry & Weinstein criteria, six had hearing restored, seven improved, and two had no change. Unfortunately, the segmental levels adjusted and technique used were not reported, beyond stating that “each patient received a high velocity, low amplitude thrust in the thoracic, lumbar spine and locomotor system, including extremities.”

The paper also cited some previous reports where improvements in auditory function were reported following adjustment or “manipulation.” Wagner and Fend [3] reported a case involving a 36yearold soccer player who developed deafness in his right ear and tinnitus after being hit in the head by the soccer ball. Following cervical (C2C4), thoracic (T6) and SI joint adjustments, a “sudden improvement” in hearing was reported, and the patient could hear a whisper at a distance of four meters.

Hulse [4] described 62 patients suffering from vertebrogenic hearing disorders before and after chiropractic management. Results indicated that the hearing disorders were reversible as demonstrated by audiometry and OAC (clickevoked otoacoustic emissions). The conclusion was that upper cervical chiropractic care was “the therapy of choice.”

Svatko et al [5] reported that 17 out of 19 patients showing bilateral hearing loss had their hearing improve following upper cervical chiropractic.

Mechanisms postulated include sympathetic disturbances, central plasticity, cortical, thalamic, and brainstem involvement. Whatever the neurological process involved, it’s interesting to note that clinicians from such diverse locations as Italy, Germany, and Russia have all observed cases where hearing was improved or restored following chiropractic care.


1. Palmer DD: “The Chiropractor’s Adjuster.” Portland Printing House Company. 1910. P. 18.

2. DiDuro JO: “Improvement in hearing after chiropractic adjustment: a case series.” Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2006;14:2.

3. Wagner UA, Fend J: “Treatment of sudden deafness by manipulation of the cervical spine.” Manuelle Medizin (Published in German) 1998;36(5):26971.

4. Hulse M: “Cervicogenic hearing loss.” HNO (Published in German) 1994;42(10):60413.

5. Svatko LG, Ivanichev GA, Sobol IL: “Manual therapy of various forms of auditory function disorders caused by pathology of the cervical spine.” Vestn Otorinolaringol (Published in Russian) 1987;(2):2831.

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