• U.S.

Medicine: Earsplitting

2 minute read

“If a 200-lb. bomb exploded in the center’ of State Street,” Dr. Henry B. Perlman of the University of Chicago told a meeting of ear, eye and throat doctors in Chicago, “85% of the middle-ear injuries would be due to the shock pulse itself, only 15% to bomb fragments. Excluding other injuries, everyone within 50 feet would likely have ruptured eardrums with bleeding from the ear. . . . Among those in stores facing the street within this radius but shielded from the shock pulse by wall, door or partition, only half of i% would have ear injuries.”

As the result of experiments with a pistol, a mirror and the small-boned mechanism of a freshly dissected ear (with which he made the first motion pictures ever taken of the human hearing mechanism in action) Dr. Perlman and his associates showed that the ear damage caused by explosions is due to a shock pulse which occurs so swiftly that the normal protective devices of the ear do not have time to work. Their conclusions about how best to save ears from damage by exploding bombs and the firing of big guns :

> Flopping on the ground or into a slit trench, or behind any kind of obstruction which breaks the surf of sound, protects ears with surprising effectiveness. So does the old-fashioned trick of sticking fingers into ears. Shields and turrets are good ear savers for gunners.

> Wearing helmets with deep crowns tends to keep out the crash, let speech tones through.

> Ear plugs are helpful but jammed in too tight may become sound conductors. “Covering or plugging the ear,” adds Dr. Perlman, “deafens it for ordinary sound and your life may depend on your ability to hear commands.”

> The angle of the ear to the sound makes a big difference: With the head turned sideways the blast enters the ear directly. Facing the sound is of some help. Turning the back to the bang is best, especially for the lucky possessors of Clark Gable ears.

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