Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/155

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145
THE HYGIENE OF THE EAR.

is more injurious to those who are in a confined space with them, and also if the mouth be open. Injury from loud sounds, also, is much more likely to occur if they are unexpected; for, if they are anticipated, the membrane is prepared for them, without our knowledge, by its muscles. At certain points on the Rhine, it is, or was, the custom of the captain of the steamboat to fire a small cannon, to exhibit the echo. When this has been done without due warning, it has proved more than once a cause of lasting deafness. Sometimes these loud sounds rupture the membrane; sometimes they deaden the nerve: the former is the least evil.

It is a bad practice, also, to put cotton-wool soaked in laudanum or chloroform into the ear for the relief of toothache. It may be sometimes effectual, for the nervous connection between the teeth and the ear is very close. But the ear is far too delicate and valuable an organ to be used as a medium for the application of strong remedies for disorders of other and less important parts; and laudanum, and more especially chloroform, is a powerful irritant. The teeth should be looked after in and for themselves, and, if toothache spreads to the ear, that is the more reason for taking them thoroughly in hand; for prolonged pain in the head, arising from the teeth, may itself injure the hearing. When a child's ear becomes painful, as it so often does, every thing should be done to soothe it, and all strong, irritating applications should be avoided. Pieces of hot fig or onion should not be put in; but warm flannels should be applied, with poppy-fomentation, if the pain does not soon subside. How much children suffer from their ears, unpitied because unknown, it would probably wring the hearts of those who love them suddenly to discover. It is often very hard, even for medical men, to ascertain that the cause of a young child's distress is seated in the ear, and frequently a sudden discharge from it, with a cessation of pain, first reveals the secret of a mysterious attack which has really been an inflammation of the drum. The watchfulness of a parent, however, would probably suffice to detect the cause of suffering, if directed to this point, as well as to others. If children cry habitually when their ears are washed, that should not be neglected; there is, most likely, some cause of pain. Many membranes are destroyed from discharges which take place during "teething." Whenever there is a discharge of matter from the ear, it would be right to pour in warm water night and morning, and so at least to try and to keep it clean. But into the treatment of diseases of the ear it would not be suitable to enter here.—Abridged from the People's Magazine.