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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

Yellowish fluid called ear wax


Care of the Ear. The tube of the trumpet leading down from the surface of the ear to the drum is lined with skin; and this skin is supplied with glands, which pour out a sticky, yellowish fluid called _ear wax_, which catches the bits of dust or insects that get into the ear and, flowing slowly outward, carries them with it. If it is let alone, it will keep the ear canal clean and healthy; but some people imagine that, because it looks yellowish, it must be dirt; and consequently, from mistaken ideas of cleanliness, they work at it with the end of the finger, the corner of a towel, or even with a hairpin, an ear-spoon, or an ear-pick, and in this way stop the proper flow of the wax and make it dry and block up the ear.

Remember, you should not wash too deeply into your ears; (as the old German proverb puts it, "Never pick your ear with anything smaller than your elbow"). And if you don't, you will seldom have trouble with wax in the ear. Scarcely one case of deafness in a hundred is caused by wax. When your ear does become blocked up with wax, it is best to go to a doctor and let him syringe it out. Picking at it, or even syringing too hard, may do serious damage to the ear.

If an earache is neglected, the inflammation may spread into some air-cells in the bony lump behind the ear (the _mastoid_) and thus cause _mastoid disease_, which may spread to, and attack, the brain if not cured by a surgical operation.

style="text-align: justify;"> OUR SPIRIT-LEVELS

The Sixth Sense. Though we usually speak of having five senses,--sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste,--we really have also a sixth--the sense of direction, or of balance. The "machine" of this sense is comparatively simple, being made up of three tiny curved tubes, which, from their shape, are called the _semi-circular canals_. These are buried in the same bone of the skull as the internal ear, and so close to it that they were at one time described as part of it. These little canals are three in number, one for each of the dimensions--length, breadth, and thickness,--so that whichever way the head or body is moved,--backward and forward, up and down, or from side to side,--the fluid with which they are filled will change its level in one of them, just as the "bead" does in the carpenter's spirit-level that you can find in any tool shop. The delicate nerve twigs that run out into the fluid in these tiny canals are gathered together into a bundle, or nerve-cable, which runs back to the part of the brain known as the _cerebellum_ or hind-brain, which has most to do with controlling the balance and movements of our bodies.

It is the disturbance set up in these spirit-level canals by the pitching and rolling of a ship, which makes us seasick. Neither the stomach, nor anything that we may have eaten, has anything to do with it. In the same way we sometimes become sick and dizzy from swinging too long or too high, or from riding on the cars.


[28] To show in how many different ways nature may carry out the same purpose, the smelling organs in insects, lobsters, and crabs are on the ends and sides of tiny feelers, which they wave about; and the eyes in lobsters, crawfish, and snails, are on the ends of stalks, which they thrust about in all directions as a burglar handles a bull's-eye lantern. Snakes "hear," or catch the sound-waves, with their flickering, forked tongues; and grasshoppers and locusts have "ear-drums" on the sides of their chests.

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