Beethoven’s Deafness

How could a composer and a great pianist be deaf? This was one of the miracles of Beethoven. Even after he had lost his hearing, he composed some of his greatest works.

At first, he confided this fact to people who were far away from him but he had confidence in them. When he couldn’t hide his  handicap, he took notebooks so that his confidants could write down what they wanted to ask him.

In one of his letters, Beethoven confided to his friend Karl Amenda:

“… Of course, I am resolved to rise above every obstacle, but how will it be possible? …”

–L.V. Beethoven, July 1, 1801

Attempts To Reverse Beethoven’s Deafness

In his own words, Beethoven referred to many of the medical professionals who tried to him as “asses.”

One medical professional suggested cold baths and almond oil, as well as tonic medicines, but nothing worked. One ridiculous doctor suggested that Beethoven take baths in the Danube. At the time of his deafness, Beethoven was also suffering from intestinal problems.

Cause of Beethoven’s Deafness

When Beethoven died, a Doctor Wagner did an autopsy on him and took note of a deformity with his inner ear cartilage:

“… The ear cartilage is of a huge dimension and an irregular form. The scaphoïde dimple, and above all the auricle, were vast and had one and a half times the usual depth…”.

Beethoven’s deafness might have been attributed to the labyrinthitis of an intestinal origin. Other researchers have suggested that it might have been caused by lead poisoning or syphilis. However, we will never know the true cause of Beethoven’s deafness, since we only have secondary sources from the period at the time to go off of.