Institution for Curing Diseases of the Ear

In 1838, James Yearsley established the Institution for Curing Diseases of the Ear on 32 Sackville St., London. The institution would eventually be renamed the Metropolitan Ear Institute, and later the Metropolitan Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital, moving to Fitzroy Square in 1911. The 1839 Annual Report of the Institution outlined Yearsley’s fundamental agenda: (1) to reform the “neglected state of aural surgery in this country,” and (2) to provide a school for specialists interested in studying aural diseases.

The governors at the first half-yearly meeting agreed on the importance of Yearsley’s institution. A Dr. Sigmund, for instance, remarked that since diseases of the ear received little attention from the medical community, the field has been, by “universal consent,” abandoned to the empirics. Such an institution, Dr. Sigmund continued, was best “calculated to assist in dispelling the obscurity in which the subject of aural surgery is enveloped.”[1]

In the Institution’s founding year, 305 patients were admitted, of which 105 were cured, 41 improved; there were 54 incurable cases, of which 31 were at least treated the remaining 51 cases were not known, and 23 were still admitted on the books at the time of the meeting for the Institution.[2] The Committee applauded not only Yearsley’s surgical skills, but also his conduct as a surgeon:

That he attempted no secrecy…but stated his plan of action with openness and candor. He told them what he could do, and do with safety and success, and did not set out like persons who were regarded as quacks by pretending to do too much.[3]

The 1839 report of the Institution also highlighted the importance of credibility of an aurist’s competence in regards to patient care, particularly to urge patients to seek medical treatment as early as possible.  As Yearsley explained,

[i]ndeed, many patients, with long-standing deafness, have thus replied to my censure for not earlier seeking assistance:—“Sir, I should have done so; but I was afraid of being made worse.”[4]

The hospital was the first in London providing specialty treatment for ear, nose, and throat (ENT) diseases. According to the London Metropolitan Archives, the hospital remained at its location on Fitzroy Street until the Second World War, when it was severely damaged by bombing. The hospital personnel and patients evacuated to Watford, but retained a small clinic in London for outpatients and emergencies during the course of the war. After the war, in 1949, the hospital relocated to 5 Collingham Gardens, Earls Court, then transferred to Saint Mary Abbot’s Hospital in 1953. In 1985, the hospital merged as the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department of the newly-built Charing Cross Hospital.

Unfortunately, the London Metropolitan Archives does not have any records of the hospital prior to 1875, so it’s difficult to ascertain what Yearsley’s position or experiences at the hospital were like.

See also Lost Hospitals of London for further details about the hospital’s locations around London.


[1] Yearsley, Deafness Successfully Treated, xi; The Times (17 August 1839), 3.
[2] The Times Saturday 17 August 1839.
[3]The Times Saturday 17 August 1839.
[4] Yearsley, Deafness Successfully Treated, 5.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s