Ludwig van Beethoven and his progressive hearing loss


While there are still many mysteries about van Beethoven’s life, including his date of birth, one fact appears well-established: The most famous musical genius of all time was no longer able to hear his own music production by the end of his life.

Unsurprisingly, a great many admirers of van Beethoven are fascinated by the composer’s way of managing tragedy and his ability to keep working after completely losing his hearing. The exact cause of his hearing loss has never been established. While syphilis, lead poisoning, or typhus have been circulating as potential etiologies, none have been confirmed for certain to date.

Around the age of 30, Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate. First, he was afflicted by a serious form of tinnitus. Due to his concomitant hearing loss, van Beethoven used a “conversation notebook” to converse with family and colleagues. Several of these notebooks have been preserved, but they are often one-sided, as the great van Beethoven continued to respond verbally to most of the questions.

At the premiere of the Ninth Symphony, hearing nothing, he had to be turned around to acknowledge the tumultuous applause of the audience directed to him.