On this very day, April 27th of 1810, Ludwig van Beethoven composed “Fur Elise” for the piano. He was almost completely deaf. I’m pretty sure that back in 1810 there were no health plans available for him so he didn’t have to worry about paying his health insurance premiums every month. He also would not have had a co-pay to go see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor either (If there was one available for him to see).
So how did Beethoven compose music and at the same time not be able to hear? Most historians agree that he probably put a piano on the ground so he could feel the vibrations. In those days most pianos had removable legs so they could be moved to play for the Kings and Queens. He also could probably “hear” the music in his head. Ever heard a song that you can’t stop humming or hearing in your mind for days? Let’s suppose that Beethoven was able to get modern day care for his ears. What could he expect? First, let’s take a look at how hearing works. From kidshealth.org “the ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. These three work together so you can hear and process sounds”. Your outer ear, the pinna, sends the sound waves through the outer ear canal to the eardrum in the middle ear. Your eardrum then begins to vibrate with the help of three tiny bones called the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. The sound then moves along to the inner ear. Those vibrations then go to the cochlea which is filled with liquid and lined with thousands of tiny hairs. The sound vibrations make the tiny hairs move and they send that information to your hearing nerve, which then sends it to your brain, allowing you to hear. The three main types of hearing loss are conductive, sensory and neural. It is thought by scientists that the cause of Beethovenʼs deafness was a disease called Otosclerosis which can damage the tiny bones, the cochlea, or both. That left Beethoven with a conductive hearing loss. Most experts today agree that hearing aids would have benefited Beethoven greatly and that surgery would not be the preferred choice of treatment. If you have an earache, be sure to see your doctor to rule out an infection and to also avoid any hearing loss.