New diseases are not easy to discover. While it is the ambition of every doctor to do so, it is thwarted by the industry of our predecessorspractically every disease that flesh has been heir to has been described.
About the best we can do is to find a modem cause for a new set of symptoms. “Tennis elbow” was not known in the days of the Pharaohs. The “automobile spine” was not known to our grand-fathers. Skin eruptions from new cosmetics or digestive upsets from new drugs, all come under the heading of new diseases from modern conditions of living.
Just recently we have another. It took real genius, I think, to connect ear symptoms with badly fitting dental plates. I am very proud of the fact that a medical man from my own state made this observation.
The set of symptoms to which I refer is due to the loss of molar teeth (the back teeth) or to badly fitting dental plates.
The remarkable thing is that the symptoms which my St. Louis colleague describes, would be so likely to be passed over or ascribed to other causes. The symptoms consist of mild deafness or impaired hearing, improved at once by inflation of the Eustachian tubes; dizzy spells relieved in the same way; tenderness over the jaw joint; head-ache on the side and back of the head behind the ears, increasing toward the end of the day. These are all due to the fact that when the back teeth are lost, there is an “overbite” which causes pressure of the lower jaw bone against the nerves of the face and the soft structures containing the Eustachian tube, that important part of the ear structure.
The condition can easily be corrected by proper plates, giving great relief to those afflicted in this way.
The ear symptoms observed, besides impaired hearing continuously or with intervals of improvement, consist of a stuffy sensation of the ears, more marked about meal time; a low buzzing sound in the ears and sometimes a snapping noise while chewing; dizziness, dull pain around the ears and sometimes very severe attacks of dizziness. All these are relieved by inflation of the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube is a canal which goes from the middle ear to the throat. It allows air to pass in and out of the middle ear, without which arrangement the ear drums would not be able to vibrate on the reception of sound waves and we would not be able to hear.
You can demonstrate your own Eustachian tubes by closing your mouth, pinching your nose closed and forcing out your breath; you feel your ears become full from the air going up the Eustachian tube.
It is easy to understand that if the tube is mechanically pressed shut there will be impaired hearing.
Physicians who are unfamiliar with the condition would do well to consult the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, May, 1933, page 184.