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Hearing management

Updated 13 December 2017

Deafness shaped Beethoven’s music

Progressive deafness profoundly influenced Beethoven's compositions, prompting him to choose lower-frequency notes as his condition worsened, scientists said.

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Progressive deafness profoundly influenced Beethoven's compositions, prompting him to choose lower-frequency notes as his condition worsened, scientists said.

Beethoven first mentioned his hearing loss in 1801 at the age of 30, complaining that he was having problems hearing the high notes of instruments and voices.

By 1812, people had to shout to make themselves understood and in 1818, he started to communicate through notebooks. In his last few years before his death in 1827, his deafness was apparently total.

Writing in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a trio of scientists in the Netherlands dissected Beethoven's string quartets.

Use of higher notes decreased as deafness progressed

They grouped these works into four ages, ranging from early (1798-1800) to late (1824-26).

The experts looked at the first violin part in the first movement of each quartet, counting the number of notes above G6, which corresponds to 1,568 Hertz.

Use of higher notes decreased as the deafness progressed, they found.

To compensate, Beethoven used more middle- and low-frequency notes, which he could hear better when music was performed.

But in the late quartets – written by the time he was totally deaf –the higher notes returned.

"When he came to rely completely on his inner ear, he was no longer compelled to produce music he could actually hear when performed, and slowly returned to his inner musical world and early composing experiences," says the paper.

The study is authored by Edoardo Saccenti, Age Smilde and Wim Saris of the Netherlands Metabolomics Centre in Leiden.

(Sapa, December 2011) 

Read more:

Beethoven 'killed by doctor'

 

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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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