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Culture:English or American
Title:aural specula
Date Made:circa 1890
Materials:ebony; silver
Place Made:England or United States
Measurements:Overall: 2 1/2 in x 1 3/8 in; 6.3 cm x 3.5 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2021.16.12
Credit Line:Gift of Stephen and Carol Gehlbach
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Inspection of the external ear canal and the nostrils pose similar technical problems. Early instruments devised for otoscopy and rhinoscopy were based on an identical principle. They were shaped like a pair of tongs, comparable to nasal specula of today. A similar type of instrument had been developed earlier by barber surgeons for inspecting narrow wound cavities. Aural specula are intended to allow visualization of the tympanum while protecting the external ear canal from diagnostic and/or surgical instruments. Silver also has hygenic properties and was often used for medical instruments in the past. Set of three graduated aural specula (often these are sets of four) within a turned ebony case, case is pyramidal in shape with a threaded base and cover, case could be composed of ebony (a tropical hardwood), the three silver aural specula are nested one on top of each other, they are three different sizes (size varies in the diameter of the hole at the tip), but the same general shape: small funnel shapes with a rounded rim, there are no marks on any of the three specula. Ignaz Gruber in Vienna in 1838 devised the first tunnel-shaped ear specula made of metal. They had a simple conical shape, were not divided into separate jaws, and could not be spread. Gruber himself did not publish his invention, but he demonstrated his ear specula to W. R. Wilde from Dublin, who had paid a visit to his office in Vienna. Wilde reported on this in 1844, and subsequently systematically refined Gruber's specula. A. v. Tröltsch from Würzburg (Germany) had seen these instruments at Wilde's office and it was Wilde himself and v. Tröltsch who helped this type of ear speculum to gain acceptance on an international scale. A different type of bottle-shaped ear speculum was first used by Schmalz (1846) and Erhard (1859) in Germany, but it was only developed into a commercially available instrument by Josef Gruber in Vienna in 1870. The ear specula most in use today were first presented by A. Hartmann in Berlin in 1881.


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