X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Archive for March, 2013

“I had experienced so much trouble in getting some pupils to experiment with”…

H Dominic W Stiles27 March 2013

In the 1890s, a Belgian by the name of Dr. Hovent discovered that using a ‘bath’ of compressed air, that is a sealed chamber, he could ‘cure’ some forms of deafness. It seems probable that what he was doing was catching people with otitis media (glue ear) perhaps, or with some other obstruction in the eustachian and that the compressed air perhaps served to clear it, however Hovent says the eustachian tubes were clear in some cases (see below).

DR. HOVENT, of Brussels, has communicated to us an account of the case of a girl aged thirteen and a half years whom he had recently under his care. She had been gradually getting deaf since birth. The child was healthy in appearance, but suffered from sore-throats, which occurred, according to the mother’s statement, every fortnight. The deafness had partially cleared up under the energetic treatment of Dr. Bayer, of Brussels, who removed the tonsils and some post-nasal adenomata and frequently passed the Eustachian catheter upon the child, but the improvement was not maintained. Under the influence, however, of a regular course of compressed air-baths the hearing improved to a marked degree, as Dr. Hovent’s figures show. On Jan. 8tb, 1892, the ticking of a watch could be heard 7 centimetres away on each side, and on the 20th the ticking, presumably of the same watch, was audible at a distance of no less than 46 centimetres from either ear. The improvement in the left ear eventually equalled that in the light; but the daily notes show that at first the light ear improved more rapidly. As the child had been practically deaf from birth, she had received no auditory education, and her reports upon objective sounds were vitiated by her remembrance of subjective sounds. We agree with Dr. Hovent in considering that so remarkable and fortunate a circumstance as the cure of what may be termed almost congenital deafness by a course of treatment lasting under a fortnight ought to be put upon record, although experience would lead us to believe that the issue was exceptional.

The Lancet, Volume 142, Issue 3670, Page 1646, 30 December 1893Compressed air treatment 001

Click on images for larger size

At any rate, in 1897 Dr. W.R.Roe, headmaster of the Derby school, was sufficiently interested in Hovent’s work that he published the attached illustration and a short item about the process in Our Deaf and Dumb.

Below is the graph from Julian Hovent’s ‘Case Seven’ in his booklet (p.27). The boy was 15, “of a feeble constitution and lymphatico-nervous temperament.”  Aged one he had convulsions and a coma, diagnosed as meningitis. Aged seven to eight he had discharges from the ears and severe colds.  His parents were scrofulous or tuberculous.

Both tympanic membranes are somewhat congested and movable. The right one is slightly perforated near the extremity of the manubrium of the malleus.
Larynx and nose show nothing worthy of notice except a slight catarrhal rhinitis. Pharyngeal tonsils are enlarged. There is no obstruction of Eustachian tubes. […]My first idea was to refuse this patient as I could not hope to obtain a satisfactory result in deaf-muteness following meningitis. But he was so anxious to try the treatment and I had experienced so much trouble in getting some pupils to experiment with, that I decided to accept him (p.28)

The boy was not cured.

Below is one of Hovent’s graphs, showing how he used the ticking of a clock at different distances, in an attempt to make some scientific sense of the quality and quantity of a person’s hearing in an age before electronics.
Hovent graph 001

The Incurably Deaf, Our Deaf and Dumb, 1897 Vol 2 (5), p.83

Hovent, Julian J., A New treatment of the so-called incurably deaf people, Liege [no date but ca 1893]


“Silent Chess Champions” in Belfast, 1913

H Dominic W Stiles22 March 2013

The following image and story is from the Belfast Evening Telegraph for Monday 4th August 1913.

A party of twenty deaf mutes, who arrived in Belfast on Friday.  The following “conversation” which took place – on paper, of course – between our photographer and one of the company will explain their mission:- “Could you give me a few details as regards your visit?” “We have come to play the Belfast deaf and dumb in a games tournament.  We are the holders of the London Federation of Working Men’s Social Clubs’ Chess Challenge Cup.  I hear the Belfast Deaf are hot stuff at chess, but I have no doubt we can lick them.  I am a Belfast man myself, but I have been away for fourteen years and hardly know the old place.  They are giving a party here to-night, and I hope to meet a good many old friends – and see a bit of the town meantime.  We are staying here till Monday evening, when we go over to Glasgow on the same errand – to lick them at chess, etc – and then we go on to Edinburgh, also on the same errand, returning to Belfast to-morrow week en route for London.”  “How many men compose your team?”  “Nine.”  “And how many are Irishmen?”  “Only myself; the others have never been out of England before.  In profession they are analyst, engraver, photographer, saddler, compositor, and bookbinder.  The rest are independent.”  The names of the group are:_ Back Row – Messrs. J. Hast, F.B. Caulfield, W. Baird (hon. Secretary), G. Howe, J. Longman.  Front Row – Messrs. E.T. Gausden, A. Padkin, C.H. Rymer. -. Jones, and H.H. Windsor.Silent Chess

Click on for a larger size.

“He is a magician who has managed to work miracles”* – the Beginnings of Deaf Education in India

H Dominic W Stiles15 March 2013

Babu Jamini Nath Banerji 1869-1921 founded a school for the deaf in Calcutta in the 1890s. Babu Girindranath Bhose, a father of Deaf children, had asked the government to get a teacher from England, however it was decided to send a teacher to England for training. In 1895 Banerji had 20 pupils.  He said (probably to Dr. Roe) when he visited the Derby School (quoted in Our Deaf and Dumb 1895 Vol 2 (3) p.32),

“I made up my mind to do something for my country’s good, and it suddenly dawned upon me that I must teach the deaf and dumb.” He promptly, and with characteristic devotion, commenced to carry out his ideas at once. In the course of an able and eloquent speech he said, “If education does not open the mind and widen the heart, if it does not teach us the duties of life, and above all, if it does not bring us nearer to God, it is not worth our trouble.”

Babu Banerji 001In the brief article it says there were an estimated 200,000 deaf people in India at that time with less than 50 under instruction.

There was at that time a school in Bombay, but after four months there Banerji, who had struggled with a copy of one of Arnold’s books given to him by Bhose, decided he needed to travel abroad to learn more.  Banerji enrolled at the oralist Fitzroy Square Training College in London.  Completing the course in a year, and not satisfied with that alone, he went on to Gallaudet with a scholarship from the U.S. government, before returning to India.

The obituary in Silent Worker says,

In 1905, when Sir Robert Carlyle was President of the School, a daily paper in Calcutta wrote a leader that the government should take up the school. Sir Robert asked Principal Banerji as to his opinion. He said it was a matter for the committee to decide, but so far as he was concerned he would oppose such a transfer in order to give the lie to the statement that Indians were incapable of taking any initiative.

References to various publications by Banerji are to be found on the University of Hamburg Sign Language website http://www.sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de/bibweb/miles/1750-1970.html

*The quotation is from Sir Robert Watson-Smyth in Silent Worker.

Around that time, the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS) (1880-1957) was starting to be active, and in the following years schools were opened elsewhere in the subcontinent. It did missionary and health related work particularly in India.  the missionaries were women – ‘Zenana’ refers to the women’s portion of the house in India. Selwyn Oxley was involved to some extent, and there are some of their pamphlets etc., as well as some photographs in the archive collection.  A trawl of the British Deaf Times and related publications will add additional articles on the Schools such as Palamcottah (see photograph below).  The Hon. Secretary in 1931 was a Miss Pell, who gave the Monthly Broadcast Missionary Talk on the radio on 7th June 1931 (BDT 1931 p.101).

palamcottah 001

Deaf Work (C.E.Z.M.S.) in India & Ceylon. Historical Collection.

Education of the Deaf in India, Teacher of the Deaf Vol.33 p.169-75, 1935

William Wheatley, a teacher at Exeter, Old Kent Rd and Margate

H Dominic W Stiles8 March 2013

William Wheatley was a veteran teacher of the Deaf at the Margate school from 1868-1911.  He was one of a number of the ‘old guard’ of the later 19th century teachers who retired in a short period leading up to that – Dr. Richard Elliott, Miss Wilcher, Mr. J.P. Barrett, and Mr. R. Pepper. I wonder how this huge change in personnel affected the methods by which the children were taught.  Has anyone done research on the methods of education of Deaf/hearing impaired children at around that time?Wheatley of Margate 001  The major shift was of course from sign to pure oralism.

Wheatley was born in London in 1842.  His family moved to Exeter where he was educated at Hele’s school.  He began teaching as assistant to Mr Scott at the Exeter Institute in 1857.  In 1861 the school had about 40 pupils up to 14 or 15 years old, six of whom were born deaf (see the 1861 census).  Moving to the Old Kent Road school in 1868, William worked under the then head, the Rev. J.H. Watson.  At that time the school had 350 students in classes of about 22, and we are told (in an appreciation of his career from Teacher of the Deaf, 1912, p.18-20), he took “duty” on alternate days.  From 1872-4 he worked at the temporary relief school in Margate.  On returning to London he married in 1874.

When Margate took on the majority of the school pupils in 1881, Wheatley moved there with the head, Dr Elliott.  The Milan conference caused a re-organisation of the teaching methods which is now infamous in the Deaf world, and Wheatley became a teacher of the oral method.  It might sound flippant, but quite how children were supposed to lip read through that voluminous beard I really cannot guess!  This is in fact a serious point, and one that the Rev Gilby touched on when he recalled Sir Benjamin Ackers, the ardent and heavily bewhiskered oralist, and his poor daughter who was Deaf, and never learned to sign.

By the time he retired he was first assistant master. In words that I suspect are by his erstwhile colleague Richard Elliot, the tribute says (ibid)

Mr Wheatley’s high Christian character has always influenced those who came into contact with him, either teacher or child. Keen student of all that pertains to the betterment of the deaf, efficient labourer in their service as he has been, the underlying force that brought the success he achieved was his love for deaf children and his unsparing devotion to their welfare. Even the naughty child would unburden his mind to Mr Wheatley, conscious of the sympathy and affection with which his wrong-doing would be viewed. And yet, the offender would know beforehand that his fault would not be condoned: but he felt sure of justice, calmly and kindly administered; and this begat that mutual confidence between the teacher and the child which has, in the case of hundreds of deaf children, proved to be of such potent influence in the establishment of character upon motives of the noblest description.

Tinnitus prevalence

H Dominic W Stiles1 March 2013

Recently we had an enquiry about tinnitus prevalence.  What follows is based on the information I uncovered trying to give an answer to that enquiry.

The figures for tinnitus will depend on a number of factors, for example the type or duration of tinnitus, and demographics, the subjective nature of tinnitus, the type of questions you ask people when you do a survey, and so on.  There will of course be other cautionary points to consider, such as the size of a sample, and other cultural or health related factors.

Back in 1987 the ‘MRC Institute of Hearing Research’ under Adrian Davis , discussed prevalence based on the National Study of Hearing (NSH) & the General Household Survey (pages 46-50), aged 17 and over in the UK (in chapter 3 “Epidemiology of Tinnitus” in Hazell (ed) Tinnitus p.46-70).  They estimated–

  • That 35-45% of adults have experienced tinnitus of some type.
  • About 15% of adults appear to have experienced spontaneous tinnitus lasting  over 5 mins.
  • At least 8% experience tinnitus causing interference with their getting to sleep & or moderate annoyance. “This would suggest about 4 million adults in the UK being affected”.
  • 0.5% report their tinnitus has a severe effect on their ability to lead a normal life “this amounts to 200,00 persons in the UK”.

In Tyler’s Tinnitus Handbook (2000), Davis quotes (chapter 1 p.4-5) the NSH based on – 

Postal questionnaires (“see Davis 1989”)

  • About 10.1% of adults experience prolonged spontaneous tinnitus.
  • 5.1% reported unilateral tinnitus.
  • 5% bilateral tinnitus.
  • That “the major indicator in this study was tinnitus annoyance. The study showed that about 5% had tinnitus which is moderately or severely annoying.”
  • 5% reported sleep disturbance. There was a considerable overlap with tinnitus annoyance such that 6% suffered either sleep disturbance or moderate-severe annoyance or moderate-severe annoyance or both.
  • The prevalence rate for a severe effect on quality of life was lower than those who had moderate-severely annoying tinnitus at about 1%.
  • Prevalence of those who reported a severe effect on ability to lead a ‘normal’ life was even less at 0.5%. “While this latter figure seems small it represents a large number of people: 200-250,000 in the United Kingdom and in excess of one million in the United States.”

From in clinic examinations

  • That increased age was important – 4.3% tinnitus in the in 17-30 age group, 15.8% in the 61-70 age group.
  • Slightly more females than males had tinnitus (p.12-13).

Overall then he concludes (p.6)

  • That there is a 10.1-14.5% prevalence, and up to 22 to 32% if the criteria are relaxed to include occasional tinnitus following noise or the common cold.
  • That 3-4% of adults consult a family doctor about tinnitus at least once in a lifetime with a similar percentage consulting about a hearing problem and tinnitus, “an indication of the magnitude of the problem”.

It seems to me it would be better if people stuck with, and quoted, percentages at a certain date/place where an article gives them, rather than trying to extrapolate for the population to best guesses in the millions.