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Quack Hearing ‘Cures’

Time to Read: 5 minutes

People suffering hearing loss look for ways to improve their hearing. Sometimes they operate out of desperation and look for cures in all the wrong places.

False promises  lead to hopes dashed and that can further reduce the opportunity to maximise your hearing.

Hearing is complicated because it involves your ears and your brain. Your ears are a complex piece of machinery complete with moving parts. They parts have to operate in concert in order to have your best hearing. Then there is your brain which processes and analyses noise and  interprets them into sounds you recognise.

Nutritional supplements may provide benefit to your overall health but they cannot specifically assist with your hearing. And non-medical devices in and around your ears should be treated with the utmost suspicion. We take a look at some quack cures from history that did more harm than good.

  • Candling
  • Vibrating Sound Exercise and Ear 'Massages'
  • The Ear Canal Finger Cure
  • Loud Sound Exercise

Candling

We look at the ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ of dealing safely with earwax at home in this article. One of the ‘don’ts’ is using ear candles.  At best they’re a waste of money. At worse they may actually damage the ears. One research paper described the device as: “Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science.” In theory, the combination of heat and suction is supposed to remove earwax. In reality, ear candles do neither and in fact can cause blockages, minor burns and perforated eardrums.

The Aurashelle vibrating ear exerciser The Aurashelle vibrating ear exerciser. Not a recommended way to treat hearing loss.

Vibration Sound Exercise and Ear ‘Massages’

Early in the 20th Century, doctors thought they could treat otosclerosis - a form of abnormal bone growth within the middle ear that causes progressive hearing loss - by using vibration sound exercise. It was a non-invasive treatment, but also completely ineffective. One of the most devices used to deliver this treatment in the 1930s was the ‘Aurashelle’ ear therapy device. The treatment was no more than a vibrator placed over the ear. It was designed to ‘exercise’ the bones in the middle ear. Instead, the instrument caused sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. Other devices from round the same time period used pumped air to ‘massage’ the ears in an attempt to stimulate blood flow.

The Ear Canal Finger Cure

Sticking a finger in the ear canal and jiggling it about was claimed to have cured a Spanish prince of his pronounced deafness. It sounds more like the Benny Hill song Ting A Ling A Loo, and proved to be just as effective at treating hearing loss. The Muncie Method of Constructive Finger Surgery made Dr Curtis Muncie an absolute fortune during the Great Depression, as people searched in desperation for a cure for their hearing loss. In 1942, the Journal of the Medical Association editorialised that “Muncie may well rank among the leading charlatans of our time.”

"Loud noises help the deaf" - oh no they don't!

Loud Sound Exercise

One of the most bizarre bits of quackery is the work of one Dr JB Prager of New York City who also operated on the theory that exercise of the eardrums could cure certain cases hearing loss.  Dr Prager recorded a phonograph that subjected headphone-wearing patients to loud noises including dynamite explosions, the ‘shrieking and clanging’ of fire engines, thunderstorms, and waves beating on rocks.  ‘The full blast of a fire siren may at first produce only a pleasant tingling in the ears, Dr. Prager reports’.  We find that very hard to believe… Thank goodness most people are aware that loud sounds can actually damage hearing.