Pills, potions and devices: treatments for hearing loss advertised in mid-nineteenth century British newspapers.
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Ross, L., Lyon, P. & Cathcart, C. (2014) Pills, potions and devices: treatments for hearing loss advertised in mid-nineteenth century British newspapers. Social History of Medicine, 27 (3), pp. 530–556.
This article examines the ameliorative options facing people with hearing loss in mid-nineteenth-century Britain. As reflected in professional journals of the day, medical understanding of diseases and dysfunctions of the ear was limited, yet there was vigorous assertion and counter-claim as to the cause and treatment of problems. At the time, medicine was largely unregulated and quack practitioners were also able to promote their nostrums and services to a credulous the general public with little chance of a genuine cure for their hearing loss. Using the nineteenth-century British Library Newspapers Archive for 1850, 379 advertisements offering cures for deafness were identified and examined to illustrate the variety of nostrums and devices offered to the public. Individuals with hearing loss were easy prey when even qualified medical practitioners had little understanding of cause or treatment, and when scant legal protection protected them from fraudulent treatment claims or offered redress for their failure.