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Pauline
04-04-2001, 12:02 AM
I have desperatly been trying to find out exactly what caused Beethoven's deafness. Anyone have any ideas? I would appreciate it.

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Pauline R. Ritchie

Serge
04-04-2001, 12:34 AM
I think most biographies of the composer will describe the reasons or at least the progression of Ludwig's deafness, but I think his deafness was a result of the hardening of the bones in the inner ear. His autopsy demonstrated that, and it would explain the gradual severity of his ailment (it took him, like, twenty years to go entirely deaf).
You are going to find a lot of discrepancy about the true nature of his deafness. I believe it was bandied about once upon a time that various diseases (syph, cirrhosis,..) helped contribute to the problem. I remember reading once that child abuse could have helped start it. The new revelation that Beethoven had far too much lead in his system may even be a culprit, I'm not sure. If you know what can lead to the stiffening of the inner ear bones, that likely is the answer.

p.s. some people claim the composer was never entirely deaf, even at death. Very interesting.

Rod
04-04-2001, 11:22 AM
Originally posted by Serge:

You are going to find a lot of discrepancy about the true nature of his deafness. I believe it was bandied about once upon a time that various diseases (syph, cirrhosis,..) helped contribute to the problem.


Well, the DNA testing of B's hair indicated that he did not have syphilis, as there was no trace of mercury found. Much was made however of the very high levels of lead discovered, the reason for which was blamed on the use of this metal in everyday utensils. But considering these utensils were used by everyone in those days perhaps it could be said that this presence of lead in Beethoven was no more than was the norm at the time.
[/B][/QUOTE]

Originally posted by Serge:

p.s. some people claim the composer was never entirely deaf, even at death. Very interesting.

Yes, there seems to have been a peculiarity of B's condition that many sounds he could not hear at all yet others would actually cause him discomfort or even pain even in later years. I'm sure the docs today know why this would be so. Though how deaf he was at the very end I couldn't say, but it surely would be bordering on the total.

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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
04-04-2001, 01:53 PM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Rod:
Much was made however of the very high levels of lead discovered, the reason for which was blamed on the use of this metal in everyday utensils. But considering these utensils were used by everyone in those days perhaps it could be said that this presence of lead in Beethoven was no more than was the norm at the time.

I've heard the theory that it was the spa water - again this would have affected many people and cannot have been a cause of his deafness. No doubt in his desparation, B would have done himself more harm than good in trying every quack method and treatment offered.


Yes, there seems to have been a peculiarity of B's condition that many sounds he could not hear at all yet others would actually cause him discomfort or even pain even in later years. I'm sure the docs today know why this would be so. Though how deaf he was at the very end I couldn't say, but it surely would be bordering on the total.



Well we know he suffered from tinitus and I'm not sure that the docs can do much about that even today. It must be apparent that B's deafness was pretty advanced by 1818 - I think that was the date when the conversation books were first used.

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'Man know thyself'

Peter
04-05-2001, 09:16 AM
Originally posted by Pauline:
I have desperatly been trying to find out exactly what caused Beethoven's deafness. Anyone have any ideas? I would appreciate it.



Found this information on otosclerosis which may have been the cause of B's deafness.


I) Introduction

Otosclerosis is one of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss. It is a disease of the bone labyrinthine capsule which consists of one or more otospongiotics focus due of a more vascularized bone, instead of the little vascularized encodral bone.


II) Etiology

The etiology of this disease is still unknown and appears to have a multifactorial cause.

There is a familial disposition in 50% to 60% of patients with a dominant inheritance, but the clinical disease only occurs in 10% of patients with histologic disease. The chance of inheriting the disease from a parent which clinically manifest disease is about 20% and from a parent with histologic disease is about 10%.

Hormonal disturbances may be involved with the disease, as it is twice more common in women than in men and pregnancy coincides with a period of progression of all female patients with the disease.


III) Clinical Manifestation

Otosclerosis occurs more often in women, from 20-40 years, and is usually bilateral.

If the otosclerotic focus involves the footplate of the stapes it results in increase of the impedance to the passage of sound through the ossicular chain, producing conductive hearing loss.When otosclerotic lesions impring the coclear, permanent sensory hearing loss occurs.

Usually the patients have Willis’s paracusia that consists of a better hearing in noisy places. Tinnitus can be found in 70% of the patient but vertigo rarely occurs.


IV) Diagnosis

The patient complains of a bilateral and progressive hearing loss. There is often a positive family history, otoscopy is usually normal but sometimes can shows hiperemia of the promontory shining through the tympanic membrane (Schwartze’s sign) . Rinne’s test is negative ( bone conduction is better than air conduction ) , in Weber’s test the patient hears better in the diseased ear and Schwabach’s test is prolongued.

Audiometry shows a pure middle ear deafness in about 80% of the cases, occasionally a mixed deafness (15%) and exceptionally a pure sensorineural deafness (5%) . The stapedius rreflex is often suppressed due to otosclerotic fixation of the footplate.


V) Treatment

Otosclerosis involving the footplate of the stapes can be corrected through surgical replacement of the stapes with a prosthesis (stapedectomy ). The surgery has better results in patients with pure conductive hearing loss.

Some evidence ssuggest that patients with otosclerosis involving the cochlea may have their level of hearing loss stabilized by treatment with oral sodium fluoride over prolongued periods of time, but more studies about this treatment is neccessary.


VI) Course and Prognosis

The earlier in life otosclerosis manifests itself the more rapid and unfavorable is its course. If stapedectomy is not carried out for the pure middle ear type, the deafness progresses and eventually the patient has a high grade hearing loss , bordering on total deafness.



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'Man know thyself'

Joy
04-07-2001, 12:18 AM
Very interesting diagnosis, Peter.
Also the fact that he consumed in a great quantity spring water which was the cause of his lead consumption (according to the book "Beethoven's Hair") was a huge factor in B's
intestinal troubles but not the deafness. That may remain a mystery although your diagnosis sounds very plausible.

Peter
04-07-2001, 09:41 AM
Originally posted by Joy:
Very interesting diagnosis, Peter.
Also the fact that he consumed in a great quantity spring water which was the cause of his lead consumption (according to the book "Beethoven's Hair") was a huge factor in B's
intestinal troubles but not the deafness.

I'm not convinced about the spa water theory being responsible for the high levels of lead found in B (although it is plausible)- Taking the waters was a very fashionable thing to do (as medicine had little to offer) so I would have thought that virtually the whole population would have shown symptoms akin to B. Perhaps they need to dig up a few other corpses who were known to be frequent visitors to the spas for comparison! Couldn't the numerous different medicines B tried have been responsible for the high lead levels ? - for all we know , a quack may even have prescribed lead to treat B's deafness, after all arsenic and mercury were used medicinally.

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'Man know thyself'

Joy
04-10-2001, 05:10 AM
Originally posted by Peter:
I'm not convinced about the spa water theory being responsible for the high levels of lead found in B (although it is plausible)- Taking the waters was a very fashionable thing to do (as medicine had little to offer) so I would have thought that virtually the whole population would have shown symptoms akin to B. Perhaps they need to dig up a few other corpses who were known to be frequent visitors to the spas for comparison! Couldn't the numerous different medicines B tried have been responsible for the high lead levels ? - for all we know , a quack may even have prescribed lead to treat B's deafness, after all arsenic and mercury were used medicinally.


I agree with you. We would have to do much testing to virtually everyone who lived during that time to prove the water theory.
Now they're even blaming lead poisoning for B's deafness. I guess the lead has an effect on neurological problems as well.
Joy