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Prof. Dr. med. Horst Koeditz

The Ear as a
Medical Instrument

Lecture given at the
“Medical Week Baden-Baden”

Prof. Dr. med. Horst Koeditz

was, un­til his re­tire­ment in 1997, head of the De­part­ment of Pe­di­at­rics at the Uni­ver­sity of Mag­de­burg and of the
Uni­ver­sity Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.
From 1990 – 1993, he was Rec­tor
of the Uni­ver­sity of Mag­de­burg.

The very gifted Kaiser Friedrich II of the House of Hohen­stau­fen, who was also very in­ter­ested in the sci­ences, won­dered in which lan­guage chil­dren would be­gin to ex­press them­selves, if they had never ever heard a word spo­ken.

Would it be Latin, Greek or the old­est lan­guage, He­brew, or the mother tongue? His lively in­ter­est prompted him to carry out an un­usual ex­peri­ment.

He gave at­ten­dants and wet-nurses a num­ber of or­phaned new-born chil­dren to bring up. They were or­dered to give them the breast and guar­an­tee the best care, but were strictly for­bid­den to speak a word, ei­ther to them or in their pres­ence.

But no an­swer to the Kaiser’s burn­ing ques­tion was to be found, for all of the chil­dren died at a very early age. ‘They could not live with­out the praise, the ges­tures, the friendly fa­cial ex­pres­sions and ca­resses of their at­ten­dants and wet-nurses; this is why the songs sung by women whilst rock­ing the cra­dle are called ‘Am­men­zau­ber’ – lulla­bies which lull or en­chant the child’. That was the ver­dict of the chroni­cler – Salim­bene of Parma – in 1240, a re­mark­able for­mu­la­tion for that day and age.

“Via the ear and its neu­ral con­nec­tions to the brain, mu­sic has an im­me­di­ate physio­logi­cal ef­fect on our en­tire or­gan­ism.”
In Herodotus’s sec­ond book, Psam­metic re­lates a simi­lar story with a less tragic out­come. Even if these re­ports are per­haps ex­ag­ger­ated, they are still early in­di­ca­tors as to how nec­es­sary stimu­la­tion of the senses is for the nor­mal de­vel­op­ment of a child.

Do we not have the re­verse prob­lem to­day?

Tones and sounds – natu­ral phe­no­mena, acous­tic hap­pen­ings – threats to civi­li­za­tion or bal­sam for body and soul? Is mu­sic not a spe­cial case of man’s self-made noise – does it thus be­long to en­vi­ron­men­tal noise? To­day more than ever since the ban­ish­ment of si­lence, mu­sic stands in the con­flict of an ec­static drug­ged state, bal­anced har­mony and acous­tic pol­lu­tion. With­out ex­cep­tion, peo­ple of all ages come into con­tact with it, but how do they han­dle it? Com­pen­sa­tion of worlds of feel­ing and bod­ily re­ac­tions, men­tal state and physi­cal load-bear­ing ca­pac­ity.

How sen­si­tive are our hear­ing and our stimu­lus con­duc­tion sys­tem? How much more con­stant bom­bard­ment with sound can they en­dure? What cere­bral func­tions are ac­ti­vated, which net­works can be reg­is­tered, and how can they be evalu­ated? How ill can noise oc­cur­rences make you?

How­ever, this year’s Medi­cal Week Baden-Baden will not be con­cerned with this, but with the ques­tion of how it is pos­si­ble to achieve the re­verse ef­fect, namely to make it pos­si­ble to pro­duce a heal­ing ef­fect on peo­ple via the senses.