The structure of the outer ear has much to do in the making or marring of beauty. Small and finely formed ears are a sign of good breeding, but are comparatively rare, many of the ears we see having a distinctly animal appearance.
The duty of the outer ear is to collect sound, and in the lower animals, whose hearing is far more acute than that of man, the ear is larger, more simply formed, and is mobile. In some human beings it still retains these characteristics, but we cannot admire them, because the aristocratic type is in reality the highest outcome of evolution.
The air is collected and strikes upon the drum, making it vibrate. Its vibrations are conveyed by a tiny chain of bones to the nerve endings, which may be compared to the keys of a piano and which, when set in motion, convert air vibrations into nerve impressions, which we recognise as sound.
Deformities of the outer ear are often due to carelessness of nurses, the child being put to sleep with its ear doubled under it, or the bonnet or hat may be put on in such a way as to keep the outer ear in a bad position. In young children great care should be taken to see that the ear is in its proper place, and the hands may be placed on either side of the baby's head, so as to hold the ears in position, several times during the day, if there is any tendency for them to fall forward. In older children, a cap specially constructed to keep the ears in place may be worn, and this, in some cases, has even been found serviceable for adults.
Deafness is becoming more and more common, and it is chiefly due, I think, to the carelessness of persons who expose the ears to strong currents of air, or remove wax from them by means of a hair-pin or other instrument. The drum of the ear, and, in fact, the whole auditory apparatus, is so extremely delicate as to be seriously injured by slight causes. The practice of cleaning out the ears with a fluffy towel after washing, or of wearing pieces of cotton wool in the ear, is also injurious, and apt to set up irritation.
The commonest cause of deafness is a mass of hardened wax which forms in the outer passage of the ear, and may even cause great pain by pressing upon the drum. This wax, in small quantities, is normally secreted and beneficial, but in old age it is apt to form a hard mass and also in cases where the ear is tampered with, or the person sits in a draught, deafness may often arise from its hardening. If there is deafness and a feeling of stoppage in the ear, there is no objection to remove the wax in the following way:--
Boracic acid -- 2 drachms
Glycerine -- 3 ounces
Water -- 3 ounces
Warm some of this and drop it into the ear from a teaspoon, leave it there for a quarter of an hour by holding the head on the pillow on the opposite side, then repeat the treatment with the other ear. This should be done for three or four days following, and then if properly syringed the wax comes away. Use a rubber enema syringe with a tube at both ends, and the best vessel to use for the purpose is a large-sized baking dish, divided down the middle, with clean water on one side, the water after use to run from the ear in to the other side. The patient's head should be held close over this, and the dish be held either by the patient herself or an assistant. The water should first be allowed to run from the syringe into the hollow of the outer ear, so that the patient may judge of the temperature, as it would be dangerous to use it too hot. It should then be injected in a steady stream into the canal, and the syringing may be continued for half an hour or more. The wax sometimes comes away in small pieces, or in a large plug ; if the latter, of course it is not necessary to syringe any more. There is often a feeling of deafness for some little time after the syringing, but this goes off, and leaves the hearing very much better next day.
It is necessary to perfect hearing that there should be a constant supply of air into the drum chamber of the ear. The drum or fine membrane shuts off the internal ear entirely from the external air, and on the inner side of this membrane air is
required. This is supplied through a little tube from one and a half to two inches long, which is situated at the side and back of the upper part of the throat, and opens into the portion of the throat that is called the pharynx or back of the mouth. It is called the Eustachian tube. During swallowing, this opening into the throat is fur a moment closed, and when the throat is swollen by inflammation or from cold, it is found that the hearing is much impaired.
When the hearing is impaired by trouble with the Eustachian tube, it may very often be improved by forcing air up the tube. This is done by doctors by means of what is called "Politzer's bag," but may be done by any person if a very deep breath be drawn, the mouth firmly closed, and the nostrils closed with the fingers. Then an effort should be made to breathe out, and as the nose and mouth are closed some of the air is forced up the tube. This may be repeated several times during the day, and it is notable that the hearing is better afterwards.Any Discharge From The Ear
should be the signal for a visit to an aurist or good medical man. It is a great mistake to attempt to stop discharges from the ear by using astringents or other means. A quack once used to advertise that he would stop discharge from the ear, and did so by means of wax plugs. By this means, many patients suffered severely, and one or two died of brain disease caused by an abscess burrowing into the brain.
Every care should be taken to free the ear from any discharge, which should be done by gently syringing with warm water containing a little glycerine. Plugs of wool should not be worn in the ear to stop discharge, which they would only retain and render more objectionable.
When there is discharge from the ear, there is generally rupture of the drum and impaired hearing. It most commonly takes place after scarlet fever, but sometimes the drum is ruptured through diving or other accident.Ear-Ache May Be Soothed
by the following application:--
Tincture of laudanum -- 2 drachms
Olive oil -- 2 drachms
Warm a little of this and moisten a piece of cotton wool with it, putting it gently into the ear.Eczema of the Ear
.---Sometimes there is a slight discharge in the external ear not due to abscess, but to eczema, and there may be cracks both in the auricle itself and behind the ear. For this the following application is most useful:--
Tar -- 1/2 drachm
Carbonate of zinc -- 1/2 drachm
Lanoline -- 1/2 ounce
To be applied to the surface of the ear.
If the smell of the tar is offensive, the following application may be used instead:—
Beta-napthol -- 5 grains
Oil of camomile -- 5 drops
Oxide of zinc ointment -- 1/2 ounce
In the case of widows who wear crape strings to their bonnets, I have known eczema to appear just behind the ears. In such cases, the strings should at once be given up, and white silk ribbon or lawn used instead. It is the dye of the crape which does the mischief.
Source: Home Notes
Labels: boracic acid, camomile, deafness, ear, earache, ears, eczema, glycerine, lanolin, laudanum, olive oil, tar, wax, zinc