Why did Beethoven go deaf? DNA testing solves 200 year old mystery

I love when modern science solves ancient or historical mysteries. Just recently, AI was used to decipher charred scrolls from Herculaneum that had been considered unreadable for millenia. Cool.

Now the mystery of Beethoven's famous health problems may be solved. Beethoven famously began losing his hearing in his 20's and had terrible lifelong gastrointestinal issues that have been the subject of speculation for the past 200+ years. The NY Times reports:

But why had he gone deaf? And why was he plagued by unrelenting abdominal cramps, flatulence and diarrhea?

Unrelenting abdominal cramps, flatulence and diarrhea? Oh, please, tell me more.

A cottage industry of fans and experts has debated various theories. Was it Paget's disease of bone, which in the skull can affect hearing? Did irritable bowel syndrome cause his gastrointestinal problems? Or might he have had syphilis, pancreatitis, diabetes or renal papillary necrosis, a kidney disease?

After 200 years, a discovery of toxic substances in locks of the composer's hair may finally solve the mystery.

Enter the Mayo Clinic to run tests on souvenir hair strands snipped from the great composer's head as he lay dying, just 56 years old. What exactly did they find?

The result, said Paul Jannetto, the lab director, was stunning. One of Beethoven's locks had 258 micrograms of lead per gram of hair and the other had 380 micrograms.

A normal level in hair is less than 4 micrograms of lead per gram.

Where did all the lead come from?

One likely source of Beethoven's high levels of lead was cheap wine. Lead, in the form of lead acetate, also called "lead sugar," has a sweet taste. In Beethoven's time it was often added to poor quality wine to make it taste better.

Wine was also fermented in kettles soldered with lead, which would leach out as the wine aged, Dr. Nriagu said. And, he added, corks on wine bottles were presoaked in lead salt to improve the seal.

Lead in everything. It's a miracle anyone survived or had an IQ over 10. 

Alex and his droogs will be happy to know the mystery of Ludwig van has finally been cleared up.