If you look back at our history, it's almost fascinating the lengths to which people have gone to treat ailments both real and imagined, either in the absence of medical advice or against it. Hearing loss is an incredibly common target of these quack remedies. Here are a few of the most bizarre we've ever encountered. 

"You Want To Put WHAT in My Ear?"

Any audiologist or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist will tell you that jamming something in your ear is a bad idea. We'd bet that each and every one of us still uses Q-Tips despite this advice. Even though we know we shouldn't. 

People in the past didn't have this knowledge, and the stuff we've shoved jammed into our ear canals throughout history ranges from the weird to the absolutely nightmarish. For instance, the Ebers Papyrus — a medical compendium used by Ancient Egyptian doctors — mentions a multitude of cures for hearing impairment. Nearly every single one requires the patient to place something into the ear canal.

Common prescriptions include: 

  • Bat wings
  • Goat urine
  • Ant eggs
  • Olive oil

Believe it or not, that last one could have actually had a positive effect if a patient's hearing loss was the result of a blockage from impacted wax, debris, or parasitic infection. Anyone attempting to treat hearing damage with it would have been out of luck, unfortunately. 

At least they'd be left with plenty of oil to cook!

"Herbal" Remedies

A common joke about the early medical community is that doctors inordinately prescribed drugs such as opium, heroin, cocaine, or a weird amalgam of narcotics. 

Got a blister? Have some opium. Persistent cough? Try heroin. Struggling with mental illness? Do some cocaine for it. 

As you've probably guessed, hearing impairment was not immune to such a laissez-faire attitude towards drugs. Today, we understand that overreliance on medication often numbs the symptoms of a condition instead of addressing the root cause. But back then? 

Some doctors even went so far as to pour herbal concoctions directly into the ear canals of their patients. 

Let There Be Blood

Bloodletting was the gold standard in medieval European medicine for many years, owing to the belief that many ailments were the result of an imbalance of 'humors' or 'bile.' In some cases, doctors would even announce that a patient simply had too much blood, and it was making them ill. 

The idea was that by draining a person's blood, the toxins making them ill would be flushed from the body. We know today, of course, that hearing impairment is a complex condition with many potential causes. A handful of leeches or a scalpel won't cure deafness any more than ear candling will clean your ear canal. 

Worse, given the hygiene standards of the time, one might even end up with blood poisoning from the process. 

Hearing is Believing

In a modern context, the remedies described above sound irresponsible at best. But at the time, and based on our limited knowledge of the human body, they were the best option any of us had. Let's all take a moment to be thankful that we've progressed past those dark days.