EAR, CARE OF.—The care and protection of the ear should begin with the nursling. In the infant the tympanic cavity, which later is filled with air, is at first full of mucus, which may suppurate if the mouth or ear is unclean. Hence, cold should be avoided, as it reduces the resistance of the infant and permits or aids infection. Water should not be permitted to enter the ears or the nose. A coryza, or cold in the head, may cause the Eustachian tube to become closed by swelling of the mucous membrane, and thus prevent the entrance of air into the middle ear. This disturbance may eventually be followed by deafness. After the bath it is necessary carefully to dry the folds behind the ears, as otherwise moist and obstinate eruptions of the skin may arise. Loud sounds should be avoided. A child that is addressed in a loud manner often cries because the noise causes pain in the ear.
A hood to press the lobes of the ear to the head is not only superfluous and without benefit, but possibly harmful. A bandage for this purpose is shown in Fig. 117. The best protection against diseases of the ear is afforded by hardening the entire body (see HARDENING), which should begin as early as possible.
A healthy ear requires neither ear-muffs nor cotton-pledgets as a special protection against wind G.: cold ; although it should be guarded against freezing during very severe weather. Neither does the healthy organ require any special care. If plenty of ear-wax be present, a daily cleansing with a soft, dry corner of a towel is sufficient. Even this cleansing should be omitted in small children. Ear-picks, hair pins, and ear-brushes are unclean and unnecessary. sometimes even dangerous. They do not prevent, but cause. the accumulation of ear wax, as well as affections of the auditory canal. To place pieces of cotton, onion, garlic, bacon, camphor, etc., into the ear in case of toothache is without benefit, and nonsensical.
Piercing the ears for earrings is a barbarous custom, occasionally leading to inflammation and even to tuberculous degeneration of the lobe of the ear. The wearing of earrings as a protection against disease, is a foolish superstition still prevailing, especially in foreign countries. Frequent picking and scratching of the ear causes inflammation of the auditory canal ; unnecessary irrigation of the ear with oil prepares the soil for obstinate accumulations of fungi, leading to inflammations. earache, and disturbances
of hearing. Nasal douches are fraught with danger to the car ; even the drawing of cold water into the nose may be harmful.
The ears are subject to new dangers when the children go to school. Pulling the ears is apt to cause contusions and inflammations of the cartilage:, sometimes leaving permanent deformities of the lobe of the ear. Blows may lead to tears and to exudations of blood. By vigorous boxing of the ears the drumhead may be ruptured ; even the labyrinth may be injured, and permanent deafness be the result. In cases of recent rupture of the drumhead, the layman should never attempt to pour anything into the ear, as incurable impairment of hearing is frequently the result of such an unsuitable procedure. In school, difficulty of hearing is often misjudged as stupidity, and unnecessarily punished. It is the duty of school physicians, therefore, to examine all children for defective hearing.
When diving head foremost during bathing; the drumhead is very apt to rupture. Likewise, when bathing in the ocean, a wave that is caught from the side instead of backward may injure the ear.
Loud sounds injure the faculty of hearing, particularly when occurring unexpectedly. Artillerymen and boilermakers, for instance, are extremely liable to deafness. Explosions and gunshots in closed rooms are also dangerous. Engine drivers who suffer from the shrill whistling of the locomotives and from long-continued standing upon the vibrating engine, are very liable to become deaf. To deaden the sound, small, light balls of cotton are used, which can be placed into the ear when necessary.
The public should be interested in this matter of hygiene of the ear, and should take steps to prevent unnecessary noises. A great deal might be accomplished by the prohibition of whip-cracking, the playing of hand-organs, and the burning of noisy fireworks, by the improvement of pavements, the regulation of noisy work, and by the division of towns and cities into factory districts and residence districts, etc.
Heredity exerts an influence upon affections of the cars, especially upon chronic, dry inflammation of the middle ear. The consultation of a physician before marrying is, therefore, advisable in certain cases. Marriages of near relations sometimes favour congenital deafness.