Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/225

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211
DEAFNESS, AND THE CARE OF THE EARS.

DEAFNESS, AND THE CARE OF THE EARS.
By ABRAM MILLS FANNING, M. D.

IT is astonishing to realize how little is known by the laity of the simplest rules for the preservation of health.

It would be amusing if it were not so shocking, because so ignorant, to know of some of the curious remedies used by people otherwise intelligent. Owing to this widespread, dense ignorance of simple medical facts among our people, positive harm is done, irreparable in many instances.

Our blind asylums contain many cases of what are known to physicians as cases of "preventable blindness"—the sight forever destroyed by the use of some "old woman's remedy," as tea-leaves, for instance, persisted with until damage too great to be successfully combated by the physician is done to the sight.

It is the popular idea that the deaf and dumb are always born with that affliction. Of course it is not so. As a rule, there is no radical defect of the organs of phonation; but children born deaf can not talk because they have never heard and learned any words. Many are the children, blessed with perfect hearing and consequent speech for the first two, three, or four years of their lives, who, in consequence of improper or no attention to their ears during an attack of measles, scarlet fever, or diphtheria, have totally lost all sense of hearing; and their ability to talk has then gradually diminished and disappeared also. Our deaf and dumb asylums are filled with just such cases of "preventable deafness."

This popular ignorance of ordinary medical truths can be attributed in great part to the disinclination of reputable physicians to write popular articles for the enlightenment of general humanity. Most of what has been written of a medical nature for the general reader has been confined to advertisements of patent medicines.

Probably the two most important senses are those of seeing and hearing; and it is of these same two that the least is known by the general public, and that the greatest number of absurdly ridiculous, dangerously improper popular remedies are used. It is the purpose of this writing to correct in some measure this misconception in regard to the ears.

A recent experiment was made by the writer at one of our large eye and ear hospitals in this city to obtain some approximate idea of the proportion of people who really have perfect hearing among those who believe themselves exempt from any defect of the auditory apparatus. Without previous warning, twenty-five eye patients were selected, care being taken to have none but those who had never suffered from any, even temporary,