Clinical Cases Homeopathy Papers

Earache

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Homeopath Dorothy Shepherd shares some of her experiences treating earache and avoiding the surgeon.

Earache, like all bone pains, is described by its sufferers as being maddening or excruciating in nature. The technical term is acute middle ear disease and follows on after acute disease as influenza, measles, scarlet fever, etc., or even ordinary tonsillitis or exposure to draughts and strong winds. A common causes nowadays is in motorists: people sitting in salon cars being driven along at speeds of thirty to forty or more miles an hour, all the windows closed except the drivers and a small ventilating opening in the roof, thus the driver and the passenger in the front are sitting in a direct current of cold air which strikes the back of the neck and the ear. Consequence: earache, and frequently a mastoid operation.

How often does one not hear these days of mastoid trouble in the young well-to-do motoring fraternity! And yet how easily could incision of the drum, and the more serious mastoid operation, be avoided if Homoeopathy was used for the early stages of middle ear disease!

A middle aged woman after a motoring weekend was seen, complaining of pain in left ear, fullness, dullness and muffled sensation in front of ear, touch and pressure made the pain worse. The history of pain after exposure to cold air led one to prescribe Mercurius bin. 6 for this lady with very happy results. Not only did the bulging inflamed eardrum return to normal, but also a nasal polypus which was discovered at the same time and of which the patient had not the slightest idea, dried up and disappeared after a month’s treatment, and the nasal catarrh which had bothered her for months cleared up as well. She talked of going to an ear specialist and having an operation for polypus but when the earache disappeared so rapidly she decided to wait until after her summer holiday which was just due. When she was seen again, there wasn’t any polypus left and the surgeon was down out of job. I don’t know that she was particularly grateful. People nowadays do like boasting of all the operations they have had and I shrewdly suspect that she thought in her own mind I had made a mistake in finding a nasal polypus the first time.

While talking of cheating a surgeon out of an operation, it reminds me of another incident which happened many years ago in my childhood days. There was great commotion in the nursery one morning as the little sister had been delirious all night, with flaming hot cheeks and acute earache. The anxious mother rushed her off at once to the best known professor of ear diseases in the local university town, who shook his head and talked learnedly of otitis media and a bulging eardrum, and the necessity of incising the drum. The honoured parent, who was a staunch homoeopath, would not hear of it, but begged for twenty four hours grace. Reluctantly she was allowed to take the child home, with all kinds of dire threats. Undeterred by all this, she started giving Belladonna 3x in watery solution every half hour, and when the professor saw the little patient twenty four hours later he was sorely puzzled as to what had happened to the inflamed drum. He looked at the ear, then at his notes, and again peered into the ear. “Mrs. —-, are you sure this is the same child I saw yesterday?” He called his assistant, showed him the case and, after a long consultation, they came to the conclusion that something extraordinary, something they had never seen before, had happened. An inflamed ear had resolved without operative interference! Mother was jubilant and never failed to tell this tale against the famous surgeon, where Homoeopathy had triumphed and carried the day.

This incident made a deep impression, and since that day one has saved many people from incision of the drum. Belladonna is not always the remedy, nor is Mercurius biniodide. It depends on the symptoms which are found present. The nature of the pain, the direction, the ameliorations and aggravations of the local seat of trouble.

One was called one evening to a little fair haired boy, almost beside himself with pain in the ear. He was fretful and whiny, wanted to be made a fuss of. The pain came on in fits and shot right down to teeth in the lower jaw. All these details pointed to Pulsatilla, and a few doses of Pulsatilla high cleared up the inflamed drum in less than twenty four hours. For two or three years afterwards he had recurrence of this trouble which always came on after he got his feet wet, another Pulsatilla symptom. It is now several years since his last attack, and one knows, should there be a recurrence, Pulsatilla will again help, as sure as anything.

Another case occurred in a young student after German measles. She presented the typical Pulsatilla symptoms and it cleared up as suddenly as it came after a few doses, without leaving any deafness behind or any other symptoms of eustachian catarrh. Chronic deafness is the usual sequel after otitis media in German measles as treated by orthodox methods.

Belladonna, Pulsatilla, Mercurius bin. are common remedies in cases of acute of acute earache but other drugs may be required, and one has to study one’s Materia Medica carefully to find the right remedy.

Once a boy was brought in for earache during the teething period. He was shrieking the place down, so spiteful, nothing was right for him. He wanted to be carried about and he hit his mother. One side of his face was red and the other pale. He could not speak yet, but there was not need to ask many questions as the remedy stared one in the face. It was Chamomilla, and the next time this child was seen there was not a better behaved child in creation, a perfect angel, and his earache had gone without an operation.

Much about the same time, another infant, about fourteen months old, was seen with almost identical symptoms. He was irritable and fretful, did not want to be touched, screamed when the back of the ear was touched, but the face was pale and he rolled his head. I diagnosed otitis media, and examination with an ear speculum confirmed it. The remedy was Cina in this case but unfortunately it was not in stock and, before it could be procured, the mother had become too worried and worked up and had rushed the child off to a local hospital, where an operation was performed twenty four hours later, first an incision of the drum, later a complete mastoid, and three or four days later the child was in the post mortem room. One could not blame the mother, she did what she thought best under the circumstances.

A very similar case was seen very shortly afterwards. The child showed the same rolling of the head, the same irritability and sensitiveness to touch, did not want anybody to come near him, was constantly picking his nose. The mother of course though it was worms and had considered giving him a worm cake which is largely made up of Santonin, the source, as John H. Clarke puts it, of our homoeopathic Cina. I dissuaded the mother, as the Santonin would have made the condition much worse, but I knew that the homoeopathic Santonin given in minutest subdivision and dilution would certainly cure here, as the child during his illness showed the very same symptoms as were brought out by the healthy provers, when they took repeated doses and noted the effects produced on themselves. These signs and symptoms I repeat again, were this normally affectionate child refused to be touched or caressed, tossed about in bed and rolled his head, the face was pallid with a white line round the mouth, gritted his teeth and picked his nose. Tthe temperature was 101, the drum of the ear was bulging and red. How difficult it was to examine it. Cina 30 four hourly quickly altered this serious state of affairs and three days later once again we had a bright, affectionate child, with a sound eardrum and no brain complications.

“Coincidence,” you say, but if one gets case after case showing symptoms which a homoeopathic doctor recognizes as being found under a certain remedy, and when he applied that remedy and the particular pathological disease clears up immediately, surely a logical mind would ascribe the cure to the remedy, the medicine given, and not to some mythical coincidence. But some folks are difficult to convince and will wriggle out of any argument if it does not suit them to believe.

Now still another case in a baby, before I quote some cases of earache in adults.
Children are difficult in one way to treat, as you have to depend entirely on your powers of observation, you cannot ask any questions as regards the nature, the seat, and the character and direction of the pain. On the other hand their objective signs and symptoms are clearer, not disguised or hidden by crude drugs and large doses of medicines taken in the past.

This baby was eight months old and just passing through its difficult period of dentition, breastfed, with a good careful mother, a happy, contented mortal, always cooing and laughing. Suddenly it all changed, the face became scarlet and felt very hot to the touch, the temperature was 102, and he was delirious during the night, constantly shrieking with piercing shrieks, the throat was intensely red and the left eardrum was red and bulging. “Did I incise its eardrum?” I should have, according to recognized and orthodox teaching. I depended on the homoeopathic scalpel, which in this case was Belladonna. The district nurse was sent in to watch the case, and if necessary send it to hospital, but again the simple remedy conquered the foul disease, the temperature went down to 99 the next morning and never went up again, and the child recovered as quickly as it was stricken down.

In the early days of practice in cases of this nature, earache with red congested drums and tenderness over the mastoid, one frequently went to a case with fear and trembling on the second visit, gas bag and ear instruments, fine scalpels, etc., all at hand in case of need, but it was never necessary. I never had to do this small, delicate operation which every general practitioner should be able to do, as text-books tell you, to prevent the more serious extension of the disease into the mastoid cavity, which means more trouble and months and months of discharging ears, deafness and perhaps death.

How much easier it all is to procure a resolution of an inflamed middle ear by a few doses of the indicated remedy. Perhaps it is too easy and on the whole not spectacular enough! One would miss the glamour and ritual of the whole surgical procedure, the bustling nurse, the cheerful anesthetist with his bagful of sweet-smelling mystery and the important jove-like surgeon who holds death and life in his glistening instruments and his dexterous hands. All glory to the clever mechanician when he is needed, but if homoeopathy was known and properly applied, the surgeon would once more occupy the secondary place of importance once held in the old days of the barber surgeon.

Speaking of surgeons and specially aural surgeons, one remembers a very puzzled colleague, a specialist, who, when told that a nurse was suffering from acute middle-ear disease with deafness, acute earache and faceache, enlarged glands of the neck and tonsillitis, warned the said nurse how serious such a condition was and offered to do all he could for her. She refused his very king offer and stuck to homoeopathy. A couple of weeks later this selfsame aurist was more than surprised to see the nurse back at work, well and blooming, earache gone, faceache and sore throat gone, no discharging ears and no deafness and no noises in the head !

“What treatment did you have,” he asked, “to get well so quickly?” “Two weeks ago you were very ill and now you are recovered.” You say you had medicine, nothing else, no specific ear treatment. Astonishing, you must have a wonderful constitution”.

I could have told him that this rapid cure was due to Belladonna as she had Belladonna symptoms, the sudden rapid onset, the high temperature, the throbbing pulsations in the head, all caused by exposure to cold wind and chill of the head, wearing a nurses cap all day and going to a theater minus a head covering at night.

As it happened she had one or two minor attacks during the previous three months and the ear surgeons, there were three at the aural clinic she worked at, talked of advising a three months rest and change for her, to clear up this tendency to otitis media. One saw that Belladonna did not hold the case, it did not prevent a recurrence, it was not deep acting enough, so in the last and third most serious attack, after relieving the acute pain with Belladonna, one went on and gave Mercurius bin., and Mercurius bin. 4th centesimal dilution, given night and morning for a fortnight, cleared up the ear and also the tendency to earache with each change in the weather. As I said, the ear specialist was astonished, but he put it down to constitution or a mere happy fluke. Poor man, he could do with a little homoeopathy himself, he is frightened of a bit of wind or draught, always corsets himself, always has a cold and cough, always afraid of broncho-pneumonia to which he is subject. And all the advice he could give the nurse was ” be careful of colds and draughts”– but how? He did not say “by wrapping up”, it did not prevent colds in his own case.

Another nurse had suffered from pain and deafness in the right ear, a fullness and numbness and muffled feeling of the ear and right side of face which had persisted for about three weeks. The general practitioner told her it was due to the change and gave her Valerian and Bromide, with no result. She was getting deafer every day and the numbness of the face grew worse, every breath of cold wind made the faceache worse, she could not stop, because of the feeling in the ear. She also was given Mercurius biniodide 6 twice a day, and on account of the complete deafness of the right ear due to Eustachian catarrh following an acute middle-ear disease, she was politzerized and had to have a Eustachian catheter passed to open the closed passages leading to the ear. She required a month’s treatment, and was then discharged without a trace of deafness.

Just at that time I had a run of ear cases, all showing Mercurius bin. symptoms: left-sided earache caused by cold air, dullness and numbness of left side of face with feeling of internal heat of vertex and side affected, deafness after getting warm, giddiness which made it impossible to stop. One often notices in the course of the years that a certain remedy seems to be more in the running during a certain period, and then a few months later the same disease, the same pathological entity requires a totally different remedy or set of remedies to cure it. The picture of the current epidemic always changes, and one has to study each manifestation of an acute illness afresh. One can just recall two nurses, two teachers, one headmaster and a women doctor all with earache and all yielding to Mercurius bin.

But enough of Mercurius biniodide, or you will run away with the idea, which is the last thing I wish for, that this is a specific for earache and there “aint such a thing” as specifics for a disease in homoeopathy. Let me illustrate this. Some fifteen years ago I was called to a midwife who was laid low with a high temperature, ulcerated throat, and acute earache on the right side. I gave Belladonna, with the result that the next day the pain in the right ear had gone, the drum had lost its ominous redness and the patient was on the mend, I thought. Unfortunately I crowed too soon, as the next day exactly the same trouble reappeared, but this time in the left ear, the temperature went up, the left drum was red and swollen, and so on. Once again I thought I should need to call in surgery to my aid, but I remembered the Lycopodium symptom, “disease going from right to left”, and on that gave Lycopodium.

I had another case almost identical, at that time, in the next street, and so they both got Lycopodium. The next day I went along with gas-bag and other necessaries for incising the drums of the two patients, and lo! they had both cleared up. Temperature was down, and both were pleased. Again I was triumphant too early. In one of the cases Lycopodium proved all efficient and no further remedy was required for curing the acute ear, but in the case of the midwife I was confronted once again with a rise of temperature to 101 on the next visit, recrudescence of the acute earache in the right ear, the right tonsil was swollen and glazed and shiny and the left ear was quite normal. One was not beaten, however. Homoeopathy did not fail one. One remembered that Lac. caninum has this symptom, as Kent puts it, complaints, regardless of kind or quality, change sides and Lac caninum 900, four hourly, effected the almost impossible. This time the drum went back to normal, the tonsil cleared up, and there was no return of any inflammation and no incision of the drum was required, no deafness followed, and there was no extension of the disease to the mastoid. A most satisfactory result to the patient.

Now still another case, and still another remedy. This was a lady who had a mastoid operation on her left ear many, many years ago, but still gets acute earache or faceache off and on. She had a particularly severe “go” a few weeks ago, with the following details: left-sided, very acute cutting, stitching pains over ear, shooting down into lower jaw and up to crown of head, very bad during daytime, much easier during night, any motion, stooping, etc., was unbearable, could not bite or chew even the softest of foods. Warmth relieved. She was very gloomy and depressed and very disinclined to move or work, very unlike her normal busy self. She was naturally very agitated about the mastoid inflammation recurring again. After two or three days of intense suffering she was given Spigelia 30 three-hourly, which speedily removed all pain and suffering. It had another curious sequel, a large lump of hard, inspissated earwax was found lying the next morning on the piece of cottonwool which she had put in her ear to keep out the cold air. One argues from this that the piece of was pressing on the superficial nerves in the ear and causing the acute neuralgia. Once the pressure of the wax was removed the pain went. Was it a coincidence that a piece of hard wax which was lying deep down in the cavity got suddenly loosened on its own? Or was it due to the action of the Spigelia which was given twelve hours previously? You can believe what you like. This lady had bouts of pain several times for two years increasing in intensity subsiding each time without specific treatment, until it reached its climax. Since the Spigelia was given all discomfort and pain has gone.

Earache during Menopause is almost always relieved by Gelsemium. The pain comes on after exposure to cold air and is of congestive nature; the ear feels hot and dull, the lobe of the ear is red and burning and the extremities feel cold. There is giddiness, and weight and tiredness of limbs. When you give Gelsemium for earache or faceache of this nature, it will disappear quickly, and as the pain is relieved, the patient has to pass large quantities of clear, watery urine.

Glonoine is sometimes needed in these menopausal cases of congestive headaches and earaches, violent pulsings and throbbing in ear and head, pain easier in the open air, worse from warmth and lying down, has to sit up bolstered up in bed, cold applications relieve. I know a lady who is always quickly improved from the rushing pains in her ears by a few doses of Glonoine. She cannot stand the heat, and is always seen walking about with a large sunshade and an old-fashioned large shady hat.

There is one type of earache which requires Hepar sulph, one variety of subacute otitis media, where the drum is very near rupturing, the pain is so acute and patient is nearly driven mad with it. Cold air, cold draught and open air make it worse, the pain is unbearable at night, and the only thing that relieves it is wrapping up the ear and head with a warm shawl. In this it resembles Chamomilla, only a Chamomilla patient is even more spiteful, gives way to violent frenzy and outbursts of anger. The Hepar individual is more likely to faint with the acuteness of the pain.

I have only considered a few of the more ordinary medicines requires to relieve earache, in different individuals. I must repeat again, there are no specifics in homoeopathy, you must study each case individually, take the particulars carefully, observe all the details and then you will be successful in preventing serious troubles as long-standing invalidism which is the usual result of “badly treated earache”. At a future date I hope to discuss chronic ear discharge and its successful homoeopathic treatment.

About the author

Dorothy Shepherd

Dorothy Shepherd 1885 – 1952 - British orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy. Graduated from Hering College in Chicago. She was a pupil of J.T.Kent. Author of Magic of the Minimum Dose, More Magic of the Minimum Dose, A Physician's Posy, Homeopathy in Epidemic Diseases.

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