Deafness in After Life May Arise from Neglect in Childhood - The Danger of Not Attending to Slight Ear Trouble - The Connection Between Throat and Ear - Earache-causes of Deafness - Injury to the Drum of the Ear - How to Remove Accumulation of Wax - Ear Trouble During
It is during the early school life that ear trouble is apt to develop, and should never be neglected. Deafness in after life arises in the great majority of cases from minor maladies connected with the ear, which could have been cured by a little care and attention.
The average person has no idea how common slight degrees of deafness are amongst people generally. It is said that only one person in nine or ten has normal hearing, but the fact that one or other ear may be affected, without causing very much discomfort, explains why slight degrees of deafness are generally unnoticed.
Now, it is for the mother to learn a few facts about children's hearing, and to be alive to the dangers of neglecting ears, in order that deafness may be better prevented in future than it is at the present time. Lack of hearing is one of the greatest calamities which can befall anybody, and even impairment of hearing, when it is at all marked, takes away considerably from the enjoyment of life, and the pleasures of social and intellectual intercourse.
The best and the worst of the matter is that deafness arises in ninety per cent. of cases from simple causes. It is a little pathetic when we realise the fact that many deaf mutes, persons who are completely deaf, and have never learned to speak, might have been happy, hearing people to-day if they had had proper attention paid to their ears in early childhood. If every mother regarded frequent colds in the head as a matter requiring the doctor's attention, more than half the cases of deafness in after life would be prevented.
The reason of this is that chronic catarrh in the throat and nose is the commonest cause of deafness. The nose and throat are very closely associated with the ear, in that they are united by means of the Eustachian tube, a passage connecting the two. Now, any inflammation in the nose and throat is liable to affect the inner structures of the ear, because the infection can pass by means of this tube right up to the delicate ear structures. If, for example, adenoid tumours are allowed to block up the nose, they press upon the opening into the Eustachian tube, and interfere with its power of passing undesirable secretions outwards from the ear. At the same time, infectious germs can find their way in, and consequent inflammation passes very rapidly to the ear.
Now, what are the early signs.
First, the child complains that he is deaf or cannot hear in one ear. Secondly, he may suffer from earache. The mother very naturally says that the deafness will pass off, and that the earache is due to a tooth, a popular superstition which many doctors help to spread. Certainly, earache may be due to an inflamed tooth, but in many cases it is a sign of middle ear inflammation, which damages the ear time after time, and leads in the end to impairment of hearing. Thus it can be seen how readily chronic colds and sore throats may damage the ear, and that therefore everything possible should be done to prevent children catching cold
Again, any child who seems dull of hearing, especially if he is a mouth-breather and subject to headaches, should have the throat and nose examined for adenoids.
Another cause of deafness in children is inflammation of the middle ear during the course of the infectious fevers such as measles, scarlet fever, and mumps, and that is one reason why it is important for a mother to have the doctor in attendance, and not imagine that she can nurse her children through these ailments without his help. The doctor knows of complications which may arise, and hence can check them.
And now we come to injury of the drum of the ear as a cause of deafness. The "drum " is the partition lying at the bottom of the external ear canal, and dividing the external ear from the middle ear. A blow on the child's ear will sometimes rupture the drum, while violent coughing or sneezing will do the same thing, and even snowballing is dangerous.
The accumulation of wax in the ear is a frequent cause of temporary deafness. The natural wax is excessive in amount and forms a block lying against the drum of the ear. This wax must be softened before any attempt is made to remove it, by pouring a little warm olive oil from a teaspoon into the ear. This is best done at night when the child goes to bed, and then a piece of cotton-wool should be placed in the ear, and the child instructed to lie on the other side so that the oil is kept in the ear. This may be done for two or three nights, and then, when the wax is thoroughly softened, the ear should be syringed with warm water and boracic in the strength of a dessertspoonful of boracic powder to a pint of water.
A proper ear syringe should be used, the boracic solution put in a jug, and the child's head held over an empty basin. The ear must now be gently syringed, when the wax ought to come away quite easily. As a rule, wax affects both ears simultaneously, and it is best for the mother to have the doctor examine the child first of all to make sure of the cause and to teach her how to syringe the ears properly.
Sometimes ear trouble appears during convalescence after fever, and it is a great mistake to think that the discharge is due to general weakness which the child will grow out of. There is always some local inflammation which must be attended to. If neglected, permanent damage in the shape of perforation of the drum and destruction of the small bones in the ear, with permanent deafness, may result, and there is always risk that the inflammatory condition may extend to the brain.