A Chamber of the Stillness of Death: Phyllis M.T. Kerridge’s Experiments in the Silence Room

I’m beginning a new project on the historical contributions of women to otology, many of whom have been overlooked in scholarship. My current article investigates the physiological work of Dr. Phyllis Margaret Tookey Kerridge, who died on June 22, 1940, the only daughter of Mr. William Alfred Tookey of Bromley, Kent. She was educated at the City of London School of Girls and at University College London; her graduate studies commenced at the latter institution, first in chemistry and then physiology, where she was also appointed as lecturer. She also held posts in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Marine Biological Association Laboratory at Plymouth, the Carlsberg Laboratories at Copenhagen, and at London Hospital. She received her M.D. from University College Hospital, in 1933 and became member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1937.[1]

During the 1930s, Kerridge conducted experiments to measure the residual hearing capacity of children in London County Council schools, as well as experiments in teaching with electronic hearing aids. Much of her research was on patients at the Royal Ear Hospital, who were tested in the hospital’s “Silence Room:” a 3,500 cubic room in the basement of the hospital’s new building on Huntley Street, with

“walls impenetrable to extraneous noises and which will never reflect, deflect nor refract sounds—a chamber of the stillness of death, where absolute accuracy and complete consistency in results will be obtained.”

The room was built so exact tests to measure degrees of deafness can be made in ideal and constant conditions. Such stillness in this room apparently allowed people to hear heartbeats and the “flick” of their eyelids! A small table and two chairs were placed in the room. There was a bell to call the Porter’s room and an electric fan affixed there as well.

The Committee of the Royal Ear Hospital occasionally granted permission to medical practitioners to use the Silence Room for their own research purposes. For instance, in 1929, they granted the otologist Dr. Charles Skinner Hallpike (1900-1979), a research scholar from Middlesex Hospital, to use the room free of charge. Hallpike is particularly known for his ground-breaking work on the causes of Meniere’s disease (a disorder that causes episodes of vertigo) and for the Dix-Hallpike test for diagnosing benign positional vertigo (sensation when everything is spinning around you).

The Western Electric 1-A Audiometer in clinical use at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, c.1920s. Western Electric produced only about 25 of these audiometers, which retailed at about $1,500 in 1923. (Central Institute for the Deaf Collection)
The Western Electric 1-A Audiometer in clinical use at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, c.1920s. Western Electric produced only about 25 of these audiometers, which retailed at about $1,500 in 1923. (Central Institute for the Deaf Collection)

The hospital’s 1938 Annual Reports reveals that Kerridge was appointed to research at the Silence Room, then renamed as the “Hearing Aid Clinic,” working alongside Mr. Myles Formby to conduct hearing test on the hospital’s patients. Though the Clinic was initially started on a 6-month trial period, Kerriddge’s work was so beneficial that the hospital Committee decided to let her continue her research work and audiometer tests, extending care to private patients as well. They provided her with two more rooms in the basement, one as a waiting room and the other as an office, as well as the services of Miss W.J. Waddge as an assistant. In 1939, Kerridge viewed 170 cases, and according to the reports, her work among deaf patients was successful in helping many of them to be fitted properly for hearing aids.

Wartime of course, changed the course of things. The clinic was abandoned during World War II, but the hospital still provided hearing tests with the audiometer to test the hearing of patients suffering from “bomb blast.”

NOTES

[1] Nature 146 (august 3, 1940).

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Distraction in Google Newspaper Archives: Kondon’s Catarrhal Jelly

I love the fact while I go through newspaper archives dating from 1900-1930s, I find the most amazing things that makes me pause in my research and pursue the new find. Case in point: this weekend, I came across this ad:

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The Telegraph December 1, 1908.

This was yet another example of an early twentieth century product claiming to cure the complications of catarrh: headaches, sore throat, and even deafness. Catarrh, if you’re unaware, is an unpleasant nasal congestion with an excess build-up of mucus in the throat, nose, ears, or chest. It usually follows after persistent cold or flu; and as colds and flus affect people differently, so too does catarrh. Some people’s symptoms go away after a few days while others remain plagued for a few years.

Some nineteenth-century aurists explained the cause of catarrh as owing to a defect in the Eustachian tubes, which connects the middle ear to the pharynx. Fluid can build up there, thus accounting for excessive mucus in the ear and temporary deafness that occurred in some patients. Decongestants, air pumps, syringing, were recommended as treatments.

By the turn of the century, patent medicine in America became widespread through advertisements. Which leads me back to the advert I came across, for Kondon’s Catarrhal Jelly, which I’ve never heard of before. Naturally, I started digging into the product to uncover its history: was it a reputable product or another patented medicine propagated by a “quack” boasting of its ineffectiveness?

The advert indicates the product was manufactured in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, off I searched for the Minnesota archives and found a bio of one Thomas N. Kenyon (1863-1935), the owner of the Kondon Manufacturing Company, which produced proprietary medicine in Minneapolis. Kenyon worked on a farm in New York state until he arrived to Minneapolis in 1882 and worked in a grocery store, eventually moving up as a traveling salesman for Frederick F. Ingram, drug specialist of Detroit.[1] Around the late 1890s, he developed Kondon’s Catarrhal Jelly.

The Jelly was initially distributed by free samples (enough for seven days) to increase its reputation:

Enough to prove to you conclusively that it is the most marvellous remedy for catarrh, the pleasantest, safest, most soothing and healing method for the treatment of this foul disease. [2]

Eventually the business grew to such an extent that Kenyon acquired a property to manufacture and spread the distribution. According to Rev. Marion Daniel Shutter, the business multiplied once Kenyon turned to newspaper advertising after a few years of mail-order samples and testimonials:

Since that time he has steadily increased his appropriation among the prominent dallies of the east and middle west. He is thoroughly systematic in his advertising and a firm believer in concentration…The success he has achieved, while in a great measure due to hard work and judicious advertising, could never have been accomplished without the backing of merit.

The Jelly was widely recognized throughout North America and England.

Kenyon’s life is grand with tales. He worked as the Director of the Minneapolis National Bank, he collected cars and driving horses, and apparently a domestic servant employed in his house was charged with insanity after she contemplated suicide following an unhappy love affair.

I searched through google newspaper archives quickly for more Kondon’s advertisements and came across this series from 1917.

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Gettysburg Times, February 28, 1917
photo 3 (2)
The Gazette Times, February 12, 1917
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The Day March 12, 1917

Clearly these ads depict how easy and versatile the product is, for a variety of everyday settings. Here’s another advert I found that highlights the longevity –and hence, general trustworthiness–of the company and product.

photo 3
The Pittsburgh Press Dec 15, 1921

Advertisements between 1930 and 1932 were overseen by the Mac Martin Advertising Company, a prominent figure in the advertising community of Minneapolis.

That’s as far as I got before I realized I really should get back to writing my overdue article…

NOTES:

[1] Rev. Marion Daniel Shutter, History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northwest Volume III (Chicago & Minneapolis: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1923), 450-453.

[2] Meriden Morning Record October 6, 1908.

The Time-Travelling, Vote-Gathering, Miraculous Acousticon

An 1922 advertisement in The Illustrated London News caught my eye:

deaf

Look at the flapper! Is she being coy? Ignoring the gentleman who’s obviously flirting with her? Or is she deaf to his fancy words?

This was the first half of an advert for the “Acoustion,” which claimed it could restore hearing in deaf individuals and improve their lot in hearing culture:

Why…should you be debarred from the pleasures of attending church, theatre, concert or conference? Why, when there is an instrument that will neutralise your deafness, should you be prevented from entering into conversation without difficulty, and listening to music without effort?

The Acousticon was one of the first portable electric hearing aids, the invention of American engineer Miller Reese Hutchison (1876-1944).

Acous_Hutchinson

He invented the first electrical hearing aid around 1895, called the “Akoulallion” (Greek for “to hear” and “to speak”), a table instrument that was connected to a carbon microphone and earphones—essentially, a “microtelephone.” The device was sold in limited quantities for $400 out of The Akouphone Company, which was established by Hutchinson and James H. Wilson in Mobile, Alabama in 1898/9. In 1901, the Akoulallion is redesigned and sold as the “Akouphone,” at a retail price of $60. The bulky nature of these devices made them unpopular and thus did not sell well. For instance, in the 1902 The Silent Worker, the popular newsletter for deaf individuals, Alexander L. Pach wrote:

Some question has been raised as to Mr. Hutchinson’s sincerity and belief in the efficacy of his machine [the Akoulallion]. There should not be any. Mr. Hutchinson was sincerity itself. He believed what many deaf people told him, and it’s a surprising fact that many of us who are deaf were fooled by that they experienced. I had intelligent deaf people tell me that they heard, where they only felt the vibrations, and these vibrations needed no machine to bring them out. Such a great number of the deaf are unable to distinguish between hearing and feeling that they were the means of deceiving the inventor, and some of our expert teachers, hearing ones, who stood by were fooled, too.

In 1901, Hutchison moved to New York and continued inventing new devices through his new company, the Hutchison Acoustic Co., operated along with Willard S. Mears. The “Acousticon” was shortly introduced, a more portable version of the Akouphone and powered by batteries; it had three components, cost 10 guineas, and the batteries lasted from a few hours up to a week. It was deemed a miraculous invention and adverts asserted the deaf that it was recommended, if not favoured, by many aural specialists.

Surdus in search of his hearing
The Acousticon. From: Evan Yellon, Surdus in search of his hearing (1906)

A patent was granted on August 25 1903 (U.S. Patent 737,242). The specifications outline that:

This invention is a portable telephonic apparatus intended to be used by persons with impaired hearing…[It can be] adapted to be used in a room or hall to enable partially-deaf persons to hear speech, music, or other sounds which are ordinarily heard by persons with normal hearing powers.

HutchinsonPatent1

Hutchison was prominent in publicizing his invention, even exhibiting it at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Queen Alexandra of Denmark counted herself as a grateful customer.

The virtues of the Acousitcon were tested by selected deaf and partially-deaf individuals in New York, who offered their professional opinions of the instrument. R.E. Maynard tested the device and notified readers of The Silent Worker that

the result was exactly the same—something that approximated sound was sent through the ear, which was rather more a sense of feeling, than of real hearing. It was so faint that no distinction could be made without the inventor first teaching the difference of sounds in the words “papa,” mamma,” “hello.” The notes from the piano and banjo could be differentiated, while the finer and shriller notes of the guitar and cornet could not, although the sound was thrown into the ear by some powerful current. It is probable the same difference in sounds could be distinguished by a deaf person holding in his hands an empty cigar box. While it was shown that bona fide deaf-mutes have little hope of making practical use of the Acousticon, it was clearly demonstrated that the device will prove highly helpful to the hard of hearing, and for that purpose is probably a great success (1903).

Hard-of-hearing Lucy Taylor was delighted at the benefits of the instrument. In 1913, she wrote to the Silent Worker:

It gave me the first ray of hope I have had in many years, for surely Mr. Hutchison knows what he is talking about. I have long felt, that if someone who understood, cared enough to really try, something might be invented, that would do for the partially deaf what glasses do for the partially blind.

The Acousiton’s advertisements were spectacular, quite eye-catching, even used during elections and maybe the device was even used by time-travellers!* Adverts highlighted the numerous satisfied customers across North America and Europe–this ad in particular indicates that there was a Toronto office branch.

acousticon1916

He also invented another variation of the Acousticon, the “Massacon,” which converted audio into vibrations.

photo 1
From: Evan Yellon, Surdus in search of his hearing (1906)

This variation was for those with more profound hearing loss, but the price was high: 12 guineas up to 23 pounds when sold in England through the company Acoustic Patents, Limited. A table version was also adopted in schools for the deaf, particularly in Chicago and San Francisco as a teaching tool to teach deaf pupils speech.

From: Evan Yellon, Surdus in search of his hearing (1906)
From: Evan Yellon, Surdus in search of his hearing (1906)

By 1905, Hutchison sold his company and the rights to Kelley Monroe Turner (1859-1927) who would introduce various types of the Acousticon, some with volume control.

*The idea of a time traveller with a bulky hearing aid (or cellphone) struck me as really funny–imagine all the hijinks! No? Okay…
 

 

Syphilitic Invasions of the Ear

The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has a wonderful post on Georgian prostitution and syphilis, which inspired me to dig up my research notebooks and uncover what nineteenth-century aurists wrote about syphilis and deafness. Syphilis is a fascinating topic. In nineteenth-century London, people were quite aware of the gruesome and devastating aspects of the disease. The memoirs of Reverend Frederick Gilby (1865-1949), for instance, documented a “tragic case” of a poor deaf and dumb child at the Bow and Bromley Workhouse Infirmary who began to develop syphilitic symptoms.

Aurists were aware that syphilitic invasions of the ear were not uncommon occurrences. Most of them agreed on the symptoms of syphilitic deafness, though they may have disagreed on the stages of the disease or which part(s) of the ear the disease was presented. Matthew Berkeley Hill (1834-1892), for instance, argued deafness in syphilis occurred at the late stages of the disease and presented in the tiny bones of the ear.[1] By the 1870s, it was agreed that syphilitic deafness included symptoms of: damage to the eighth cranial nerve, tinnitus, a gradual loss of hearing, with periods of remission, and evidence of damage in the tympanic cavity.[2]

John Cunningham Saunders (1773-1810), founder of the London Infirmary for Eye and Ear Diseases, believed that proximate causes of syphilis and nervous deafness (hearing loss due to defective or damaged nervous system) were the same.  “Constitutional deafness” (selective, temporary deafness) also included deafness caused by syphilis. The Irish aurist William Wilde (1815-1878) defined syphilitic deafness as “syphilitic myringitis.” He described the disease as being rooted in the tympanum (bony cavity of the middle ear, behind the eardrum):

[T]he deafness which sometimes accompanies the secondary form of syphilis is generally believed to be caused by inflammation, and ulceration extending from the throat through the Eustachian trumpet [tube] into the middle ear.[3]

The aurist Joseph Toynbee (1815-1866) also discussed deafness arising from syphilis, though he didn’t go into much detail on its root causes. In The Diseases of the Ear (1860), he outlined a case of 28 year old “H.L.” who came to see him on June 25, 1853 for treatment of deafness and afflicted symptoms arising from syphilis:

[He has] suffered for several months from sore throat, consequent upon an attack of secondary syphilis: for two months has complained of deafness in both ears, so as not to hear any except a loud voice. The deafness is accompanied by constant singing [tinnitus], which is increased when the head is on the pillow, and it varies much…The treatment pursued was the use of the nitrate of silver to the fauces, and the administration of steel wine. On July 2d he told me that three or four days previously he heard quite well in the morning, and the improvement lasted for two days, since which he has been gradually getting deaf again. By perseverance in the treatment for a month he perfectly recovered.[4]

James Hinton (1822-1875), aural surgeon at Guy’s Hospital, also noted that 1 in 20 of his patients manifested symptoms of syphilitic deafness. Hinton also assisted in the research of English surgeon Jonathan Hutchinson (1828-1913), who was collecting data on inherited syphilis.

L0008502 Portrait of Sir J. Hutchinson.
Jonathan Hutchinson

Hutchinson studied at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and was a member and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons; his remarkable surgical career led to appointments in several of London’s hospitals, including the Lock Hospital, the London Hospital, and Blackfriars Hospital for Diseases of the Skin. His work on syphilis was the first to connect various symptoms to form diagnosis—what’s now called the Hutchinson Triad, in which symptoms of notched teeth, interstitial keratitis, and deafness, could provide a firm diagnosis of congenital syphilis.

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Types of interstitial keratitis, from Hutchinson’s A Clinical Memoir
L0021139 "Syphilitic malformations of the permanent teeth".
Types of notched teeth, from Hutchinson’s A Clinical Memoir

In A Clinical Memoir of Certain Diseases of the Eye and Ear as a Consequent of Inherited Syphilis (1863), Hutchinson states that deafness frequently follows the presence of keratitis and in the majority of cases, the deafness was complete and permanent. He found syphilitic deafness occurred in cases of diseases of the cranial bones extending towards the internal and middle ears; of these cases, otorrhoea (inflammation of the ear with excessive discharge) was an invariable symptom.

Deafness in greater or less degree is frequent in the subjects of inherited syphilis. In some instances it advances to the almost total abolition of the perception of sound. These extreme cases are however exceptional, and more commonly only the hearing is only partially lost.[5]

Symptoms of syphilitic deafness were indicative of the progressive nature of the disease. As Hutchinson explained, deafness is usually symmetrical, in that it appears in both ears at the same time. In none of his cases did he find any changes in the tympanic membrane (eardrum), although the membrane was often abnormal in some way. The stages of hearing loss are rapidly passed through; a patient’s hearing could drastically diminish in six months from perfect hearing, to totally deaf, without any marked degree of pain. In cases of inherited syphilitic deafness, Hutchinson observed that deafness usually appears in five years either before or after puberty.

“Herdito-syphilitic deafness,” Hutchinson declared, had a poor prognosis. Its progressive nature meant there was little chance of permanent improvement, even in spite of the “cautious use” of specific remedies prescribed from the onset of symptoms. Six months to a year was the usual time “for the completion of the process and the entire abolition of the function.”[6]

NOTES

[1] Matthew Berkeley Hill, Syphilis and Local Contagious Disorders (1868).

[2] Deborah Hayden, Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis (2003), p.80.

[3] William Wilde, Practical Observations on Aural Surgery (1853), p.252.

[4] Joseph Toynbee, The Diseases of the Ear: Their Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment (1860), p.235.

[5] Jonathan Hutchinson, A Clinical Memoir of Certain Diseases of the Eye and Ear as a Consequent of Inherited Syphilis (London: 1863), p.174.

[6] Hutchinson, p.183.

Powell’s Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness

In 1905, Dr. Guy Clifford Powell, of Peoria, Illinois invented and marketed a device he called the “Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness.”

photo 2

The apparatus apparently cured a patient of deafness by pumping air through the ears via cotton-covered electrodes soaked in salt water. After pumping in air, a jolt of electricity generated by the solenoid coils is sent to the patient’s head. Two “Electro-Magneto Storage Cells” batteries were placed inside the top cover.

The Lindian Collection of Medical Devices has some incredible close-up photos of the device’s structures and an overview of the instruction manual.

The Electro-Vibratory apparatus was initially priced at $100 and promoted through mail-order marketing. Powell advertised himself as an “International Specialist,” even printing his image alongside his adverts for the device. Prospective clients would write in, request a trial, and the device would be sent to them once payment was received. Apparently as Powell risked being exposed as a fraud, he offered a hefty discount for clients—they only had to pay $15!

photo 3

After Powell died, his company was carried on by “Dr. L.C. Grains Company,” which operated out of Chicago instead of Peoria. The company added the Electro-Vibratory apparatus to its repository of deaf cures, including the “Read Clover Extract” and the “Curo Grains of Life.” However, all the advertising booklets, leaflets, and general paraphernalia issued by the L.C. Grains Company were identical to that of Powell’s—save for the portrait of the “Doctor!”

Testimonials and advertising ephemera from the Powell Company.
Testimonials and advertising ephemera from the Powell Company.