• Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Frauds, and Fads in Deafness Cures

    I’m happy to announce that I signed a contract with University of Chicago Press to publish my first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Frauds, and Fads in Deafness Cures. The book explores the history of therapeutic choices and negotiations respecting “deafness cures,” including Eustachian tube catheterization, artificial eardrums, electrical apparatuses, the fenestration operation, and an abundance… Continue Reading

  • [My Guest Post] Deafness as a Public Health Issue

    In May, I took up my position as the 2016 Klemperer Fellow in the History of Medicine at the New York Academy of Medicine. Thanks to the wonderful staff there, especially Arlene Shanter, I was able to dig through the library’s trove of materials on otologists in the 1920s and 1930s and their collaborations with social… Continue Reading

  • The 20 Minute Surgery that Cured a Prince’s Deafness

    In 1923, the New York Times and Time Magazine reported that King Alfonso of Spain summoned a famous New York osteopath to treat his fifteen-year-old son, Infante Don Jaime (1908-1975). Deaf and mute following a severe case of mastoiditis (middle-ear infection) and possibly tuberculosis at a young age, Don Jaime was adjudged “incurable” by Spanish… Continue Reading

  • Can Vitamin B Cure Deafness?

    In 1934, a surgeon examined the medical histories and nutrition diaries of his deaf patients. He soon noticed that most of his patients ate very little food containing vitamin B, which was essential for heathy nerves. He then pondered: could cases of nerve deafness be cured simply by adding more vitamin B to a diet?… Continue Reading

  • Auricular Training & The Little Deaf Child

    I came across a copy of The Little Deaf Child: A Book for Parents, a short book published in 1928 reassuring parents of deaf children that with proper training and education, there was hope for their children. The book was written by John Dutton Wright (1866-1952), the founder and director of the Wright Oral School in New… Continue Reading

  • Experiences of a Deaf Man

    From The Albion Magazine (1907): When a man suddenly becomes deaf there is little or nothing he would shrink from if it afforded, or seemed to afford, the smallest chance that he would recover the enjoyment of a sense which he never properly valued until he lost it. About sixteen years ago, when well advanced in life,… Continue Reading

  • Refitting a Hospital during the Great War

    During the Great War, several institutions in London were refitted as auxiliary hospitals to treat the wounded servicemen returning from the battlefields. With large numbers of hospital staff heading to the front lines or volunteering for the war effort, some smaller hospitals even refitted their premises to contribute to the war effort. One such volunteer hospital was… Continue Reading

  • Dieting Deafness Away

    I’m sure some of you have heard of London-based undertaker William Banting (1797-1878), who was the first to popularize a low-carb diet that formed the basis of modern-day diets (think Atkins). Banting was an upper middle-class funeral director whose family held the Royal Warrant for burials for five generations, until 1928; George III, George IV,… Continue Reading

  • An Experiment in Chloroform

    Tinnitus. A ringing, buzzing, singing, clicking, roaring, annoying sound. It can get so loud that every other sound in the vicinity is drowned out. It can last a few minutes, or hours, or even years. It can be divine retribution, the “Curse of Titus,” after an insect flew into Titus’ nose and picked his brain… Continue Reading

  • Syphilitic Invasions of the Ear

    The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has a wonderful post on Georgian prostitution and syphilis, which inspired me to dig up my research notebooks and uncover what nineteenth-century aurists wrote about syphilis and deafness. Syphilis is a fascinating topic. In nineteenth-century London, people were quite aware of the gruesome and devastating aspects of the disease. The memoirs of… Continue Reading

  • Powell’s Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness

    In 1905, Dr. Guy Clifford Powell, of Peoria, Illinois invented and marketed a device he called the “Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness.” The apparatus apparently cured a patient of deafness by pumping air through the ears via cotton-covered electrodes soaked in salt water. After pumping in air, a jolt of electricity generated by the solenoid coils… Continue Reading

  • 10 Extreme 19th Century “Cures” for Deafness

    The nineteenth-century introduced a tremendous number of treatments boasting cures for irremediable deafness. Some of these cures were advised by aurists (specialists of the ear); others were tested home remedies or marketed as proprietary nostrums. Below is a list of some of the most extreme measures that were once popular treatments: 1. MERCURY The use… Continue Reading