Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 054

"It Does Not Injure the Ear.  A Senseless Objection Raised Against the Phonograph,"
New York Times
, July 30, 1890.

The Philadelphia Board of Park Commissioners has started a crusade against the phonograph.  A member of that board conceived the idea that the machines must be injurious to public health, and had four of them ordered out of Fairmount Park.  It is not stated whether or not the Park Commissioner found anybody suffering from disease contracted by the use of the phonograph, but the board assumed that it was dangerous to the public health and abolished it.

The declaration that the use of the phonograph is injurious rests entirely upon assumption.  A young woman typewriter, employed by a large publishing firm, who has been typewriting from phonographic dictation for nearly a year, was found.  She said that she began work with the phonograph with some misgivings, and for the first day or two feared that the effect of the machine upon her sense of hearing was injurious.  But when she became accustomed to its use all fears disappeared, and she never noticed any disagreeable effects.

At the New-York Opthalmic Hospital a TIMES reporter was told that no cases of ear trouble arising from the use of the phonograph had ever been reported.  So far as the liability of the phonograph to transmit diseases was concerned, it might be placed on a par with the cups at public drinking fountains, the use of the general brush and comb in hotels and barbers' shops, or the customs of handshaking and kissing.  Disease might be contracted by any of these means, but the chances were small.  In the first place, but few people afflicted with diseases of the ear would be found using phonographs, and in the second place, the ear tip in general use on the phonograph was capable of thorough cleaning so quickly and easily that the greatest scruples could be completely satisfied.   If the ear tips in general use on exhibition phonographs and graphophones were inserted far within the ear, the membranes might be injured.  But there was no reason for such extreme penetration.  One can hear better by letting the tips hang loosely in the ear.

At the offices of the North American Phonograph Company the matter was ridiculed.   The only objection to the use of the phonograph, they said, had come from an inferior class of stenographers and typewriters who feared that the instrument would interfere with their occupation.  The more intelligent and skillful of these people, however, found the phonograph a valuable assistance in their business.  The use of the phonograph in public, of course, involved the general use of the ear tips, but if there was any objection to their use it was on the score of cleanliness rather than health.  The Secretary of the company said:

"There are about five thousand phonographs now in use in this country, the greater part, I think, in business offices, where they are employed to take dictation, which is subsequently written up by typewriters.  The instrument is only beginning to be generally understood, and its use is increasing at the rate of about three hundred a week.   But in all of our experience I have never heard of a case of injury to the ear or of disease transmitted by the use of the machine.  Still, there are people who object to the insertion of the ear tips in their ears, and we have prepared a new kind of tip or plate to meet such objections.  It is made in the shape of a circular disk, of hard rubber, with a small round hole through the middle.  This presses against the ear, but is not inserted in it, and it could not therefore be subject to the objection named.   The telephone is just as open to this objection as the phonograph, but I doubt if the public will cease using the telephone on that account."