• 1825: Electricity as Treatment for Deafness

    William Wright on electricity as treatment (1825): Electricity may be, and we find in some cases of diminished hearing, that it is a powerful auxiliary; but as electrical machines are too often in the hands of men incapable of judging to what cases electricity ought or ought not to be applied, so the author who… Continue Reading

  • The Artificial Tympanum

    Perforation of the eardrum (tympanic membrane or tympanum) is a very common injury to the ear, often resulting from ear infection, trauma (damn those Q-tips!), loud noise, or blockages in the Eustachian tubes. Most cases the damage is minor and the drum heals quickly on its own, but other cases bring about hearing loss, and… Continue Reading

  • 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… Continue Reading

  • William Wright & Miss Hannah Thatcher

    William Wright (1773-1860), whose professional career began in Bristol, England in 1796, moved to London and acquired a large practice in aural surgery that included the Duke of Wellington and other members of the nobility as patients. Eventually he became one of John Harrison Curtis’ fiercest and most outspoken rivals, rallying against the prevalence of… Continue Reading

  • Monday Series: An Inquest into a Surgical Procedure II

    Charles Spradbrow also witnessed Joseph Hall in perfectly good health on Saturday June 22, having had seen him at Turnbull’s ten or twelve times on occasion to be treated for deafness, and was “always very anxious to use the instrument.” Several other individuals—as many as thirty, according to some reports—were also at Turnbull’s that Saturday,… Continue Reading

  • The Death of William Whitbread

    Despite the emerging popularity of Eustachian tube catheterization in France—particularly supported with Deleau’s air douche—British aurists remained ambivalent about applying the procedure for deaf patients. In addition to his herbal remedies, Alexander Turnbull performed surgical procedures on his patients, including syringing, removal of obstructions with forceps, and Eustachian tube catheterization. According to aurist William Wright,… Continue Reading

  • French Perspectives on Eustachian Tube Catheterization

    Earlier I wrote about Sir Astley Cooper and his procedure of tympanic membrane perforation as a remedy for deafness. While in Britain there wasn’t tremendous grounds being made in aural surgery, the situation was quite different in France, as surgeons made more advancements in Eustachian tube catheterization as a remedy than their British counterparts.  By the… Continue Reading

  • The Pretensions of Dr. Turnbull

    I wrote about Dr. Alexander Turnbull (c. 1794-1881) in a previous post discussing his advertisements for deafness, particularly the use of veratria as a catch-all cure. Even though nearly all medical practitioners of the nineteenth century advertised in one form or another, Turnbull was especially prolific in advertising his cures and remedies, and often supplemented… Continue Reading

  • 61 Questions

    In Advice to the Deaf: The Present State of Aural Surgery (1840), John Harrison Curtis addressed to deaf individuals the importance of seeking out an aurist to receive a through examination of the ear. Acknowledging that some of his distant patients might be unable to find a skilled aurist in the countryside, Curtis describes how he put… Continue Reading

  • The Royal Dispensary: Motivations and Prejudices

    I’ll be presenting at the Deaf World/Hearing World: Spaces, Techniques, and Things in Culture and History Conference on December 10-11 in Berlin and as I write my presentation, I’ve been thinking a lot about how motives and intentions guide history. I also just wrapped up a semester of teaching Medicine from Antiquity to the Renaissance at Ryerson University… Continue Reading

  • Aurists’ Treatments for Eustachian Tube Obstruction

    In 1834, the aurist William Wright published a treatise addressed to the Honorable Members of the Committee of Inquiry into the State of the Medical Profession. The treatise, The Present State of Aural Surgery; or, Methods of Treating Deafness, Diseases of the Ears, and the Deaf and Dumb (London: T. Hurst, 1834), attempted to assess… Continue Reading