Science: Beethoven's Ears

MY hearing grows worse and worse," Beethoven wrote in 1801. "A medical ass prescribed tea for my ear." Ever since his death in 1827, scholars have speculated that poor circulation, syphilis or typhoid fever might have been the cause. Not so, say Drs. Kenneth M. Stevens and William G. Hemenway of the University of Colorado Medical Center in the A.M.A. Journal. Beethoven's deafness was probably caused by cochlear otosclerosis, which today might be corrected by surgery. In this disorder, bony overgrowths within the inner ear cavity interfere with the transformation of vibrations into...

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