The commonest forms of ear trouble are (1) deafness, (2) head noises or ringing in the ears (tinnitus), (3) otitis media or pus in the middle ear, with perforation of and discharge from the ear drum, and the complications of otitis media, mastoid infection and brain abscess, and (4) diseases of the external ear impacted cerumen, furunculosis and eczema.
If you have any ear trouble of any kind you should consult your physician. He will give you the name of a competent ear specialist, if he does not care to treat you himself.
Deafness may be due to degeneration of the auditory nerve, or to infectious diseases in childhood, especially scarlet fever. There is a form which comes on gradually in adult life due to a slow hardening of the structures in the middle ear.
Those who need reliable advice about hearing apparatus, instructions in lip reading, etc., should write to one of these organizations:
The National Federation of the Hard of Hearing, 1601 35th Street N. W., Washington, D. C.
The New York League for the Hard of Hearing, Suite 342 Madison Avenue, New York, New York.
Jersey City League for the Hard of Hearing, 75 Brinkerhoff Street, Jersey City, New Jersey.
Head noises almost always accompany the slow onset of chronic deafness due to hardening of the structures of the middle ear. There is no reason why anyone with head noises should not use the auto-massage recommended by Gleason in his book on the ear. Here it is:
“Auto-massage with the finger tips is entirely harmless and may be used for the relief of tinnitus (head noises and ringing) whenever it becomes annoying. The forefinger should be slightly moistened and slipped into the opening with the nail posterior. With rapid piston-like movements of the finger-tip inward and outward, a patient can easily exercise alternations of pressure and rarefaction of the air within the ear canal, and hence massage the middle ear and drum very thoroughly. He may be instructed to employ the method several times a day with increasing relief of tinnitus in many instances and generally improvement of the acuteness of hearing. It is seldom that the method fails to afford at least temporary relief from the feeling of fullness or pressure within the ear.”
Infection of the middle ear is usually an extension of infection from the throat. The infection goes up the Eustachian tube, an open canal leading from the throat to the middle ear. If you have middle ear infection you need a doctor’s advice for your throat and ear as well. For acute cases a familiar remedy is glycerine with a drop of carbolic acid to a teaspoonful of glycerine put on cotton and stuffed in the external ear.
Temporary deafness is often caused by impacted cerumen, or fat which hardens in the outside canal of the ear. It may close up the opening of the ear entirely. It is often extremely difficult to remove. Warm olive oil dropped in the ear to soften the cerumen may aid in its removal. Do not try to remove cerumen yourself. Remember the only safe thing to put in the right ear is your left elbow. Prevention of impacted cerumen especially in children should be done by a regular inspection, to see whether the brown wax which is a natural secretion of the skin glands is filling up the opening into the ear: if so removal with cotton and olive oil is advisable.
Itching of the external ear canal is due to a mild eczema. It may be cured by the application of 1 per cent yellow oxide of mercury ointment, which can be obtained at drug stores in little tubes with a thin point, making it easy to apply directly inside the ear. Some cotton wound around the clear end of a match and covered with this ointment makes application of the ointment to the itching surface easy.