Tinnitus Throughout the Years
Although tinnitus is considered to be increasing in these noisy modern times, it has actually been troubling people for a very long time. The first records of tinnitus date from the era of ancient Egypt. It has been documented and interpreted in different ways ever since. We thought it would be interesting to compile a post about how tinnitus was perceived and treated over the course of history.
1.) Ancient Egypt
The oldest recordings of tinnitus date back to the 16th century. It was written on the Ebers Papyrus. Ancient Egyptians believed that the people suffering from tinnitus were actually bewitched and were offered a cure for the “bewitched ear”.
Treatments included infusing a mixture of oil, frankincense, tree trap, herbs and soil into the external ear through a reed stalk.
Mesopotamians believed there were 3 kinds of tinnitus – the singing, the speaking and the whispering of the ear. They documented their treatments for tinnitus on clay tablets which were among the 600 clay tablets containing medical texts.
The treatments varied from ingredients like opium, cannabis, belladonna to very original ones like chants dedicated to the god of water asking him for relief from the noises in the ear.
3.) Classical China
The Chinese thought that tinnitus was caused by the imbalance of the Ying and the Yang. Ying represented support, structure, and constitution while Yang showed changing, adapting and moving.
4.) East India
The Annamite tribes of East India believed that human ears were inhabited by small animals. If they engaged in a fight with similar animals living in the ear or were upset by foreign bodies tinnitus would occur.
The Annamites treated tinnitus with fumigation. It involved burning non-poisonous snakes and letting the fumes get into the ear to drive away the small tinnitus causing animals
5.) Ancient Rome
The term tinnitus was actually coined in the Roman Empire by an ancient Roman scholar, Pliny the Elder. The Romans divided their tinnitus treatments depending on the source of the noise. If tinnitus stemmed from the head, the treatment would include exercising, gargling and placing radish, cucumber juice, honey and vinegar in the ear.
On the other hand, if tinnitus stemmed from the ear then the patient should clear the ear and hold his breath until he laughed. Romans also recommended boiling earthworms in goose grease and putting them in the ear to solve all kinds of ear issues.
6.) 14th Century Medieval Welsh Medicine
The medieval methods were also quite interesting.
One method included taking a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven, cutting it into 2 and applying it to both ears as hot as possible in order to produce perspiration. The patient then said the following prayer;
Bind and thus produce perspiration, and by the help of God, you will be cured.
This method resembled ear candling which is still used in alternative medicine.
7.) Renaissance era
Renaissance doctors believed tinnitus was caused by the wind that got trapped in the ear and swirled around endlessly. So in order to liberate the wind, they would drill a hole into the bones around the ear using a silver tube which would suck the air out of the ear canal. This method was actually quite revolutionary as it introduced surgery as a treatment for tinnitus.