Beethoven's loss of hearing

Beethoven was born in 1770 and died in 1827 at the age of 57.
He became deaf in 1798 at the age of 28.

Beethoven is reported to have dated his hearing loss from a fit he suffered 1798 which was induced by an angry rage at the interruption of his work - having fallen over, he got up to find himself deaf.

His hearing would only ever partially recover and would, during its gradual decline, be impeded by a severe form of tinnitus. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has variously been attributed to typhus, auto-immune disorders (such as systemic lupus erythematosus), and even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake. The explanation from Beethoven's autopsy was that he had a "distended inner ear," which developed lesions over time.

As early as 1801, Beethoven wrote to friends describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings (although it is likely some of his close friends were already aware of the problems).

Beethoven, on the advice of his doctor, lived in the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, from April to October 1802 in an attempt to come to terms with his condition. There he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide due to his growing deafness and records his resolution to continue living for and through his art.

Over time, his hearing loss became profound: at the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony in 1824, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience because he could hear neither it nor the orchestra.

Beethoven's hearing loss did not prevent him from composing music, but it made playing at concerts—a lucrative source of income—increasingly difficult. After a failed attempt in 1811 to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the "Emperor"), which was premiered by his student Carl Czerny, he never performed in public again until he directed the premiere performance of the Ninth Symphony in 1824, which involved him giving cues to conductor Michael Umlauf.