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Hearing Loss Cures of the Past

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

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Historically, humans have not the kindest to deaf people or any person with any kind of sensorial condition. Deafness, in particular, was seen as terrible because it was obvious but not as obvious as blindness. Blindness, people learned to live with fairly quickly. Deafness is something people can live with for quite a while before others pick up on it.

Random “Cures” People Created

Curing deafness, up until the 1950s, was considered highly prevalent. Though deafness posed no immediate danger to the afflicted or those around, people believed that deafness needed to be cured at all costs. Sometimes, those cures were humorous; other times, the cures were cruel and painful. Whichever cure was used, one thing is clear about past attempts to cure deafness: none of them worked.

Science and medicine made their attempts to cure deafness through some wacky means, but the strangest “cures” always come from common people trying to solve big problems. The most common cure-all for hearing loss problems was sticking or pouring something into the ear. In the simplest way, sticking something in the ear seems like a good idea. Today, hearing loss can be caused by blockages or growths. None of the objects used to stick people in their ears back then were specially designed enough to cure hearing loss, but there is a slither of sense in the method.

After twigs and pieces of metal didn’t work, people started pouring things into their ears to cure hearing loss. They poured everything from distilled water to hog lard and boiled fruit juices. Sometimes, they even gas down their ears, hoping to wash the deafness out. Other home remedies involved pouring bear fat and water steamed from urine into the ear.

Of the most bizarre, the “cure” that called for people to jump from high heights is interesting. People, when jumping from heights, can experience popping in the ear. Maybe that’s what people associated deafness with back then, so jumping may have seemed like a logical cure.

Then, science and medicine mixed with home remedies and people just started taking drugs. It reached a point where anything herbal medicine or exotic drug that even remotely had healing properties was being shoveled into people’s bodies in some way. According to an “informative flyer” being placed around towns back then, opium could restore hearing. For those wondering, it’s been proven that hardcore drugs can actually cause hearing loss.

Aside from the comical home remedies and dangerous drug remedies, there were also cruel remedies. During a time when surgery usually caused death, doctors were surgically catheterizing the ear and cutting the body to let some blood out (better known as bloodletting). There was also the horrifying practice of deliberately blistering the skin using caustic plaster.

Modern medicine has no explanation for the darker treatments other than doctors and scientists simply using the ill for their own personal experimentation. Those kinds of “cures” are the same category of “electromedicine” and overmedication.

Modern Cure Trickery

Though it seems like bizarre medicine and scams have gone from the world, people are still making wild claims of how they cured hearing loss. One of the oldest “cures” still around is hypnosis. Hypnosis is directly related to people’s beliefs, so eliminating hypnosis as a cure-all will not be an easy task. In many countries, people still take deaf and blind people to their priests and healers even if the afflicted person doesn’t want to go.

These days, with technology as advanced as it is, there are plenty of pharmaceutical and biotech companies producing what they call cures. None of these cures are clinically proven or tested and even the companies admit their products only work for a handful of people; yet, they sell millions of units every year.

The Only Real Cures

To prevent hearing loss or restore hearing, the only option is going to see a trained professional. Only a licensed hearing specialist can properly help people regain their hearing. ENTs are also the only ones capable of providing real hearing aids; not the phony personal sound amplification devices. They may also perform surgery and implant cochlear devices.