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How Did Beethoven Go Deaf?

Life in general: how did he become deaf? what were the reasons? just curious. thanks! :)

From Chris Howard
Posted July 11, 2004 at 07:24 PM

how did he become deaf? what were the reasons? just curious. thanks! :)

From K. Steed
Posted on July 11, 2004 at 11:26 PM
This is the answer to a FAQ posted on http://www.xs4all.nl/~ademu/Beethoven/ asking when he went deaf:

The exact date of the onset is unknown, but it must have happened in the period 1796/1798. It was a very slow process and not until 1817 Beethoven began to use the so-called Konversationshefte (conversation books), because he couldn't communicate anymore with his visitors. They had to write down their questions and remarks. However, as late as 1825 he was still able to hear very loud sounds. The first who tried to write a complete anamnesis of all Beethoven's illnesses, including, of course, his deafness was Schweisheimer and he did so in 1922. He thought that Beethoven's other chronic illness, his bowel problems, had had the same background, most probably an underlying chronic disease, maybe an infection. To this day there's no certainty about the cause of those problems, nor about the deafness. We only know for sure that from about 1820/1 Beethoven suffered from chronic liver cirrhosis and it looks as if this is also the cause of his death.

From N.A. Mohr
Posted on July 12, 2004 at 03:55 AM
Wasn't it due to lead poisoning?
From Andrew Sumitani
Posted on July 12, 2004 at 04:05 AM
i thought it was syphillis
From Matt S.
Posted on July 12, 2004 at 05:21 AM
His abusive father probably didn't help.
From Nancy Crane
Posted on July 12, 2004 at 12:26 PM
I heard that his father used to beat him around the ears when he was little. There's a brilliant film called 'Immortal Beloved' (or something like that) with Gary Oldman playing Beethoven which touches on the subject of his deafness.
From matthew feldman
Posted on July 12, 2004 at 05:02 PM
beethoven certainly had lead poisoning...it causes nerve damage and could explain his manic depression, horrible intestinal cramps, terrible belly pain, and possibly death. but i think experts have ruled it out as the cause of the deafness.
matthew feldman
From 'Erie Weber
Posted on July 13, 2004 at 02:27 AM
I've also heard he may have had Meniere's Disease.
From P W
Posted on July 13, 2004 at 03:45 AM
Interesting. Syphilis has been proposed but solid evidence is not there. One essential feature of lead poisoning is decreased brain power (cognitive function), which Beethoven did not lack. If child abuse was the cause of his deafness, deafnes should have happened during or right after his childhood . Meniere's disease does not lead to deafness. Many experts suggest cochlear otosclerosis or primary autoimmune degeneration of the organ of Corti. But the real cause remains unclear.
From Peter Rovit
Posted on July 13, 2004 at 07:45 PM
I do recall that a sample of his hair was tested recently and that it did show lead poisoning.
Apparently lead was used as a preservative in wine at the time! People also used to lick the tips of lead pencils before writing with them.
I believe that Syphillus was considered less likely since the standard treatment at the time was ingesting mercury and there was no mercury found in his hair sample.
From Stephen Mayhew
Posted on July 23, 2004 at 09:41 PM
I found an interesting book at the library called "Was Mozart poisoned?" by John O'Shea. It deals in detail with your question and similar ones for other musicians/composers.
Stephen
From Andrés Magula
Posted on July 23, 2004 at 11:23 PM
I heard it was otoesclerosis.
From Rod Saunders
Posted on July 24, 2004 at 06:35 PM
I don't know about his deafness, but his liver condition was probably caused by his frequent overindulgance.
From N.A. Mohr
Posted on July 24, 2004 at 10:12 PM
http://www2.sjsu.edu/depts/beethoven/hair/hairtestpc.html
From Cindy Wang
Posted on July 26, 2004 at 05:15 PM
There's another book called "Beethoven's Hair" which deals on this topic.
From Sally Zhao
Posted on September 25, 2004 at 09:00 AM
I read it was due to Paget's disease of bone, a disease causing thickening of bone, mainly affectings middle-aged to elderly males. The thicking of bone is believed to have compressed his auditory nerves, leading to deafness.
From Bernard Hsiao
Posted on September 26, 2004 at 09:59 PM
with all the diseases you guy said he had, it's a wonder he even lived to compose!
From One-Sim Lam
Posted on September 27, 2004 at 04:35 PM
Why is it that the most famous composers either die early or are crippled with diseases and ailments? For example, Mozart died at an early age, Beethoven went deaf and had that abnormally large forehead and Delius was paralysed.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 28, 2004 at 12:20 AM
Greetings,
One Sim, if you examine Beethoven`s death mask you would actually find that the -back- of his head was absolutely huge. The reason for this is that he had an amazingly developed visual cortex. His capacity for thinking in colors must have been enormous. That also tends to explain his difficulty with math,
Cheers,
Buri
From Owen Sutter
Posted on September 28, 2004 at 06:13 AM
keep in mind that before the 20th century lots fo poeple got sick and died early
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 28, 2004 at 06:40 AM
Greetings,
Owen, the 20c had flu pandemics that killed tens of millions. Why do yout hink Mattias is always sniffing?
Cheers,
buri
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on September 28, 2004 at 06:45 AM
Greetings,
sorry , a touch more precision to bore the pants off you:
1918-19, "Spanish flu," [A (H1N1)], caused the highest number of known flu deaths: more than 500,000 people died in the United States, and 20 million to 50 million people may have died worldwide. Many people died within the first few days after infection and others died of complications soon after. Nearly half of those who died were young, healthy adults.
1957-58, "Asian flu," [A (H2N2)], caused about 70,000 deaths in the United States. First identified in China in late February 1957, the Asian flu spread to the United States by June 1957.
1968-69, "Hong Kong flu," [A (H3N2)], caused approximately 34,000 deaths in the United States. This virus was first detected in Hong Kong in early 1968 and spread to the United States later that year. Type A (H3N2) viruses still circulate today.

Then there is smoking.....
Cheers,
buri


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