Cures for Deafness - Folklore Tales

Yes, You Can Hear Again! All You Have to Do Is...

Caucasian father and sons signing at dinner table
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Throughout history and right up until maybe the 1950s, hearing people believed deafness to be so terrible it had to be "cured" in any way imaginable, even if the cure risked bodily harm. Even the book Deaf Heritage paid homage to the history of attempts to cure deafness, by reprinting an old advertisement for a cure for hearing loss. Here are some of the "cures," some of which are humorous, from quacks, old wives tales, and superstitions:

  • Stick a twig in the ear and keep it there all day and night until the deafness is cured.
  • For acquired (non-congenital) hearing loss, surgically catheterizing the ear and washing it out with gas or water.
  • Heat your urine using two dishes, and use the water that boils off, in the ear. The water in the ear will stop the deafness.
  • Fry peach kernels in hog lard and put drops in the ear until deafness is cured.
  • Climb up very, very high then suddenly jump down. The sharp fall will restore the hearing.
  • Take opium. The drug will cure deafness.
  • Cut the body and let out some blood (bloodletting). This will cure deafness.
  • Let yourself be hypnotized; when you come out of it, you will hear again.
  • Take a certain brand of snuff. It will cure you of deafness.
  • Use any of a number of drugs or herbs to restore hearing.
  • Electrical treatments for deafness called "electromedicine."
  • Various special oils that can cure deafness (as well as other ills).
  • Cell salts and mineral products for treating deafness.

Deafness visitors submitted the following tales:

  • My Deaf friend and I were backpacking around the world, of course I am myself Deaf. We stopped in Fiji for a week in October 2003, and there was a woman came in our room to begged us to come with her to see her priest. She believed that her priest put his hand on our heads that will cure our deafness and explained to us that priest cured many Deaf Fijians for last 100 years. I burst to laugh, and explained to her that I am very happy to be Deaf, and nothing can change my deafness. She was shocked to hear that I am happy, and refused to accept it. I realised that everybody in Fiji believe that the priests are healers.
  • My parents were told in the late 40's or early 50's that taking my brother to a chiropractor would cure his deafness.
  • My father and two of his siblings are deaf. He grew up in a rural area of southwestern PA. In the early 1930's his grandparents melted bear fat and poured it into his ears in an attempt to cure his deafness.
  • Back in the 1960's,when she (a deaf friend) was discovered at 2 years old to be deaf, her Italian mom flew her over to the vatican in Rome to get guidence from the priests and bishops. They assured her that when the deaf daughter began to menstruate at the onset of puberty, she would most certainly become cured.
  • A boy and his parents went on a high mountain top to visit a wise man and he put oils in his ear and prayed with him and said that if he is good and his soul is good and he prays for 7 days the deafness will go away. If he was bad and his soul was black and that he was (associated with) the devil then in 7 days (then) his deafness would not go away and to send him into the woods. I heard this story from my ASL teacher.
  • I'm living in Norway. When I was a little boy, my grandmother took me to a "healer" to cure my deafness. The "healer" said to my grandmother that I have to eat 20 tomatoes each day. Then I could hear again! I started to eat tomatoes, but - stopped after a half day! Still deaf!
  • Sit in a chair for 3 days and 3 nights without food or water and deafness will be cured.
  • While yawning put pepper in the mouth and the sneeze will take away your deafness.
  • Back when I was in second grade, I was taken to see an ENT (ear,nose,&throat) specialist. He assured my mom that having my tonsils and adenoids removed would do the job. When that failed, he had me gulping water, holding my breath and then "plunged" me with a bulb, swallowing at the same time. It goes to show you how desperate our parents were and how professionals preyed on their fears. I now wonder if he thought I was malingering and was in hope that he could "scare" me out of fakery.
  • Mix your urine with garlic and olive oil and stir gently. Drink this 3 times a day and you will be cured.
  • A deaf boy I went to school with had gone to a church with his hearing father. At the end of the ceremony the priest/minister/father approached him and gave him a small square red cloth and told him to pin it to his clothes and pray hard every day, then god would give his hearing back. This happened in the mid 1990s.
  • Put soap and water in your ear till you feel like cured.

Do you know of any other "cures" that can be added to this list? Especially funny ones? Send it in!

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