Popular Remedies for Deafness

The aurist William Wright (1773-1860) published a journal in 1825, The Aurist. In the third volume, 31 May 1825, he prints the first of series of articles to be devoted to discussing the merits of some popular remedies advertised and recommended by aurists and “quacks” in London. Unfortunately, the third volume was the last one, but we are left with some interesting insights into how Wright assesses some of these “popular” remedies.

On insects being inserted into the ear:

We do not believe that these insects or eggs, ever assisted to relieve one case of deafness, but we do believe that some simple cases may have been benefited by the application of the oil [of earthworms] alone, which is directed to be used in the preparation of these other remedies.

For instance, ants, when boiled or distilled, give off formic acid, which can be used to drain out wax from the ear.

On the use of Nitrone Oxide Gas:

As experimented with some professionals for deafness, we think, if administered with due caution, it is worthy the experiment, because as it does stimulate the muscular powers so forcibly, without leaving any of that debility, which is the usual consequence of all other stimuli; in moderate but frequent doses, and under proper management, it might permanently increase the tone of the organ of hearing.”

The gas was often used by aurists for Eustachian tube catheterization.

Also used for catheterization, Aether:

We are trying the effects of the vapour of aether in a few cases to which every other method of treatment has previously been applied, and failed of affording relief. The patients who are having it applied, are persons of an extreme nervous temperament, and they are satisfied that they have already desired benefit from the application. At present we do not think the fact is sufficiently established, to enable us to speak decidedly upon the subject, but we hope to be able to do so in the course of the succeeding numbers, when we shall explain the manner of using the ether.

As discussed earlier with the case of Joseph Hall, catheterization with an air douche can be dangerous, and even more so when applied with aether; it was thus recommended by many aurists only the skilled and well-trained of the brethren should apply it on patients.

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