Deafness in Disguise Washington University School of Medicine Becker Medical Library

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Rare Books on Deafness, Hearing, and Hearing Devices

Jean Marc Gaspard Itard (1775-1838).  Traite des maladies de l’oreille et de l’audition. Paris: Mequignon-Marvis, 1821.

Plate of illustrations of hearing devices Several hearing devices are described in Itard’s work, including a membrane trumpet, a seashell trumpet and a rod-shaped device using bone conduction.

John Harrison Curtis (1778-ca.1860).  A Treatise on the physiology and pathology of the ear: containing a comparative view of its structure, functions, and various diseases; observations on the derangement of the ganglionic plexus of nerves, as the cause of many obscure diseases of the ear. Together with remarks on the deaf and dumb. 6th ed. London: Longman, 1836.

“To those who wish to hear well, and who disregard the appearance of the trumpet (which, by the by, seems to be the crux surdorum), I would recommend the tin trumpet . . . The cheapest and even the most unsightly, trumpets are often the best; and a common tin one . . . collects more sound, and renders the hearing more acute . . . they may, it is true, be worn under a cap or wig without being seen.”

Ear trumpet with two apertures
Small tin ear trumpet
Curtis invented this ear trumpet with two apertures, one to be inserted into the meatus and the other into the mouth – the user thus receiving sounds by both the external auditory passage and by the Eustachian tubes.   Curtis credited the invention of this small tin ear trumpet to Don Consul Jovis at Cadiz. Curtis wrote that “in some cases it is found to be of considerable benefit; but still I must, once for all, assure my readers, that it is useless ever to expect to hear so well with a short trumpet, however excellent, as with a long one.”
Collapsible ear trumpet
Curtis claims to have invented this telescoping trumpet “some years ago,” extolling its virtue of collapsing into a small case to be carried in a pocket.

James A. Campbell.  Helps to Hear. Chicago: Duncan Brothers, 1882.

This work by James Campbell, a professor in the Homeopathic Medical College of Missouri, contains a discussion of the anatomy of the ear, the nature of sound, and descriptions of all the various hearing devices of the day. Sectional view of the left ear

“The deaf are, as a rule, very sensitive over their infirmity, and hence dislike any instrument which is conspicuous, or makes this condition more apparent; for this reason many other devices have been invented, which seek to conceal this fact . . .”

Apparitor Auris illustration
Illustration of Japanes Otacoustic Fan
These illustrations show only a few of the hearing devices described in Helps to Hear.
Double Curve Ear Trumpet
Ear of Dionysius hearing device “What spectacles are to the eye, the ear trumpet should be to the ear; but while the adaptation of glasses to correct the optical defects of the eye, may be considered as one of the complete sciences, with but little more to be desired, the science of Acoustics is still far from furnishing the help required, in the application of its principles to aid defective hearing.”

D. B. St. John Roosa (1838-1908).  A practical treatise on the diseases of the ear including a sketch of aural anatomy and physiology. 6th edition, revised and enlarged. New York: William Wood and Company, 1885.

Illustration of patient using Audiphone Roosa reports of an instance of watering of the eyes by a patient when using the Rhodes Audiophone as illustrated.

Laurence Turnbull (1821-1900).  A clinical manual of the diseases of the ear. 2nd edition, revised. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1887.

“Ear-trumpets are to the ears what spectacles are to the eyes, but the aid which they render is neither as perfect nor as complete.”

Illustration of a simple ear trumpet Ear trumpet illustration
Illustration of Haswell's ear trumpet
Turnbull’s work contains a variety of illustrations of hearing devices.
Illustration of a variety of hearing devices
Pocket ear trumpet illustration
Illustration of Martineau Hearing Horm
Illustration of Itard auricles “The greatest drawback to their usefulness is that they cannot be worn any length of time, as they press upon and weary the ear, causing at times quite a painful sensation. About three consecutive hours is as long as they can prudently be worn. If a lady be the wearer, she finds it unpleasant at times to have her bonnet tied over them.”

Gherardo Ferreri.  Manuale di terapia e medicina operatoria. 1899. Roma: Societa editrice Dante Alighiere, 1899.

19th century hearing trumpet
A sampling of hearing devices illustrated in this Italian text.
19th century acoustic cane
19th century conversation tube
19th century hearing trumpets

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