Tinnitus, commonly referred to as "ringing in the ears" is the medical term for the subjective perception of hearing sound (ringing, clicking, buzzing, whining, etc.) that isn't actually present. The following people all suffered from tinnitus.
Perhaps the greatest composer to have ever lived, Beethoven eventually grew to be completely deaf. He noted in a letter penned in 1801 that his hearing was growing progressively worse. He said, "Day and night I have a buzzing and singing in my ears." It is believed he had what is today known as otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth in the middle ear.
The Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh, was troubled off and on by attacks of dizziness, nausea, hallucinations and sounds in his ears. Van Gogh later became insane, and some believe that both his insanity as well as his tinnitus were the result of poisoning that came from eating paint. Others suggest that he suffered from Meniere's disease.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, suffered from recurrent attacks of tinnitus and vertigo, which he perceived as roaring in the ears and dizziness in the head. At times the attacks would become so severe that he was certain he was being visited by Satan.
It has been suggested that Catholic saint and French heroine, Joan of Arc, suffered from tinnitus (most likely caused by Meniere's disease, judging from other symptoms she exhibited). She heard "voices" in her head, which she was unable to "understand" at first. These voices may have been tinnitus.
Alan Shepard was the first American citizen to fly in outer space, and was one of the men who walked on the moon as part of the Apollo XIV mission. He began suffering from ringing in the ears in 1963 (he had Meniere's Disease) and was grounded by NASA. After successful treatment with surgically implanted tubes to drain away excess fluid, his flight status was restored.
Other well known figures thought to have been affected by tinnitus include Francisco Goya,William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Steve Martin, Barbara Striesand and Neil Young.
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