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Good Health and Bad Medicine:
 Colds - Part 1

 Colds - Part 2

 Colds - Part 3


 Mouth Washes And Bad Breath

 Nasal Disorders

 Sinuses And Sinusitis



 Asthma And Hay Fever

 Read More Articles About: Good Health and Bad Medicine


( Originally Published 1940 )


EARACHE requires immediate medical care, since it may be a symptom of an infection of the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear—all potentially serious ailments. Until medical attention is obtained the pain may be relieved somewhat by applying a hot water bottle to the ear or exposing the ear to the heat radiating from a heat lamp. No ear drops should ever be used unless prescribed, since they often aggravate the infection. Rubbing the ear with proprietary salves or ointments is futile. Even if they contained some marvelous drug, it would not penetrate the skin to the focus of infection. Instilling heated salve into the ear canal is dangerous.


If there is a tendency to excessive accumulation of wax, it can be treated by dropping full strength hydrogen peroxide solution or equal parts of glycerin and water to which a pinch of bicarbonate of soda is added, twice daily into the ear canal. If a large amount of wax has accumulated it will be necessary to have the ear cleaned by a physician.


Itching of ears is usually due to irritation caused by debris, discharge, an external condition of eczema or local parasites.

Prompt medical attention can determine the cause and quickly relieve it. If examination is delayed remember that scratching and poking may injure the eardrum or provoke. a long-lasting eczema.

Buzzing or Tinnitus

This is a common symptom which can be provoked by local irritation or inflammation of the ear canal or drum. It may also occur as a symptom of disorders of the heart and blood vessels; or it may be caused by involvement of the nervous system organs connected with hearing.


Discharge of any substance other than the normal wax indicates infection of the canal or middle ear, or both, and calls for competent medical examination. Neglect of such a condition may lead to serious complications.


That dull, deaf feeling in one or both ears which some-times accompanies a cold is frequently due to forceful blowing of the nose or to spread of the infection to the Eustachian tube (a tiny tube connecting the nose and the middle ear) by the use of nose drops or by forceful sniffing of "cold jellies" or salves. The sensation or the infection will often clear up simply if one refrains from forceful blowing or sniffing, or discontinues the use of drops.

Don't pinch the nostrils shut in blowing the nose, for that causes a marked rise in pressure within the nose, forcing infectious material into the sinuses or Eustachian tubes. A good rule in nasal hygiene is always to blow the nose gently. During a cold, even more caution is necessary.

Persons with a history of ear trouble must be cautioned against unrestricted swimming and diving. The latter should be avoided altogether, since the shock of plunging into water can force water into the ear canals and cavities and start up an infection. For swimming, the ear canal should be blocked by inserting rubber ear plugs or lamb's wool soaked in mineral oil. This will tend to prevent water from entering. As an additional precaution, a rubber bathing cap extending over the ears may be worn. After emerging from the water, the nose should not be blown forcefully. The water should be allowed to drain from the nose.


Impaired hearing or deafness can be caused by many different diseases. In childhood, impaired hearing may be due to an infection of the middle ear occurring after an attack of measles, scarlet fever or tonsillitis, or even after a common cold. Tuberculosis and syphilis are also occasionally responsible for chronic ear trouble in childhood and adult life. Whatever the cause, expert medical attention is essential. Frequent visits to an ear specialist may be necessary to clear up a chronic infection and restore normal hearing. If a private ear specialist cannot be consulted, a hospital clinic should be visited.

Many people get discouraged because progress is slow. One thing is clear, however: reliance on non-electrical ear aids or ear gadgets advertised in popular magazines is a waste of time and money. None of these "gadgets" is better or more efficient than the cupped hand held at the ear.

In recent years new hearing aids have been developed that are helping thousands of people who otherwise would be shut out from many social relations. A person's hearing can be tested and charted today with an apparatus called the "audiometer." If your ear specialist or clinic cannot furnish you with a test, write to the American League for the Hard of Hearing, Washington, D. C. This society will advise you where to go to obtain a hearing test. In many cities such tests can be had free. Hearing tests are necessary in order to determine the kind of hearing aid that will be useful. The best aids are electrical, and are expensive. A trial is usually permitted by the company before purchase.

Lip reading is the salvation of all hard-of-hearing persons who cannot be well fitted with electrical hearing aids or who cannot afford them. Lip reading can be learned in classes, or at home. It provides a remarkable feeling of confidence and a relief from strain and fear of misunderstanding.

For certain hereditary types of deafness (otosclerosis) an operation has been devised which may be helpful. However, it is still in the experimental stage.

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