Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/154

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the ear is impaired: that is, by the attempt to clean it. It ought to be understood that the passage of the ear does not require cleaning by us. Nature undertakes that task, and, in the healthy state, fulfils it perfectly. Her means for cleansing the ear is the wax. Perhaps the reader has never wondered what becomes of the ear-wax. I will tell him. It dries up into thin fine scales, and these peel off, one by one, from the surface of the passage, and fall out imperceptibly, leaving behind them a perfectly clean, smooth surface. In health the passage of the ear is never dirty; but, if we attempt to clean it, we infallibly make it so. Here—by a strange lack of justice, as it would seem, which, however, has no doubt a deep justice at the bottom—the best people, those who love cleanliness, suffer most, and good and careful nurses do a mischief negligent ones avoid. Washing the ear out with soap and water is bad; it keeps the wax moist when it ought to become dry and scaly, increases its quantity unduly, and makes it absorb the dust with which the air always abounds. But the most hurtful thing is introducing the corner of the towel, screwed up, and twisting it round. This does more harm to ears than all other mistakes together. It drives down the wax upon the membrane, much more than it gets it out. Let any one who doubts this make a tube like the passage, especially with the curves which it possesses; let him put a thin membrane at one end, smear its inner surface with a substance like the earwax, and then try to get it out so by a towel! But this plan does much more mischief than merely pressing down the wax. It irritates the passage, and makes it cast off small flakes of skin, which dry up, and become extremely hard, and these also are pressed down upon the membrane. Often it is not only deafness which ensues, but pain and inflammation, and then matter is formed which the hard mass prevents from escaping, and the membrane becomes diseased, and worse may follow. The ear should never be cleaned out with the screwed-up corner of a towel. Washing should extend only to the outer surface, as far as the finger can reach.

Ear-picks, again, are bad. If there is any desire to use them, it shows that the ear is unhealthy; and it wants soothing, not picking. And there is another danger from introducing any solid thing into the ear. The hand may get a push, and it may go too far. Many is the membrane that has thus been broken by a bodkin. Sportsmen sometimes have their membrane pierced by turning suddenly while getting through a hedge. And it even happens that a boy at school may put a pen close to another's ear, in play, and call to him to make him turn his head; and the pen pierces the membrane. Very loud sounds may cause deafness, too. Artillerymen, and also eager sportsmen, and very zealous volunteers, incur a danger from this cause. It is well to stop the ears when exposed to loud sounds, if possible; also to avoid belfries when the bells are about to ring. A man who was once shut up in one became stone-deaf before the peal was done. The sound of guns