Historic ear treatments you won’t believe were real

Historic ear treatments you won’t believe were real

If one can presume that problematic conditions related to the ear – such as ear pain and hearing loss – have surely existed for as long as ears have, then it’s also a safe bet that human beings have tried out all manner of treatments for these conditions down the ages.

Research over the years has uncovered evidence of hearing disorders going back potentially hundreds of thousands of years. Neanderthal remains, for example, dating to around 40,000 BCE have shown signs of bony growths in the ear canal known as exostoses.

So, we can be fairly sure that conditions of the human ear have been around basically for as long as humankind – which in turn, raises the question of what treatments were applied to resolve their symptoms. Below are a few examples that have been discovered.  

Who fancies a brew?

It seems that the first time hearing loss was written about may have been around the time of ancient Egypt. Indeed, in the era around 1550 BCE, the Egyptians apparently had a remedy for hearing loss: a brew consisting of goat urine and insect eggs. We aren’t sure it’s a treatment we would recommend today.

Therapies based on herb, animal and mineral substances

Fast-forward to the Byzantine times of 324 to 1453 AD, and it’s fair to say that ear conditions ranging from hearing deficiency and deafness to tinnitus and rupture of the eardrum were continuing to fascinate the physicians of that age.

Research has suggested that this era particularly saw the use of therapies based on herb, animal and mineral substances, applied as eardrops, clysters or poultices, or involving the use of special instruments and apparatus. Early texts also indicate that some surgical techniques were used during this time, and even some of the earliest hearing aids.

13th-century animal horns and 18th-century ear trumpets

It might seem quite remarkable from our perspective today, that although people suffering from hearing loss were using hollowed-out horns from animals such as cows and rams as primitive hearing devices back in the 13th century, it took until the 18th century for the ear trumpet to emerge.

The development of the funnel-shaped trumpet represented a significant milestone, in that it was man’s first attempt to create a device for the treatment of hearing loss. Even the trumpet, however, did not amplify sound; the idea was that it was supposed to collect sound and funnel it into the air via a narrow tube. But these trumpets were bulky, and did not bring especially impressive results.

Ear candling… yes, candling

Far from a phenomenon of the distant past, ear candling is still a ‘treatment’ that some people swear by today. Also sometimes referred to ‘ear coning’, ear candling is the practice of placing a lit, cone-shaped candle into the ear. The heat from the candle is meant to pull up the ear wax.

While ear candling certainly has history behind it – ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks having apparently turned to it to promote spiritual healing – there is a lack of valid scientific evidence of its supposed benefits, and doctors do not recommend it today. It is a practice regarded as both dangerous and ineffective, with the heightened risk it brings of accidents and issues such as burns on the face or ear, or the ears becoming plugged by wax.

Thankfully, as outlandish as many of these treatments can seem today, we no longer have to depend on them. For an in-depth discussion about arranging effective and safe microsuction ear wax treatment on the outskirts of London, please do not hesitate to enquire to the Welling Ear Wax Clinic inside Falconwood Pharmacy today.

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