Genetics and Hearing Loss: An Overview

Blogging about hearing lossIs there such a thing as genetic hearing loss? The simple response to this question is ‚Yes. Genetic abnormalities actually cause most types of hearing loss. In the developed world, hearing loss is regarded as the most common hereditary birth defect.

Genetics 101. They way your body functions and looks is governed by the genetic code of your DNA – your genes. Scientists have discovered over 100 genes that can negatively affect hearing. If one or even more of these genes is altered or missing the effect can often be hearing loss. Parental genes are passed to children, so any irregular gene sequences which cause hearing loss are passed down.

Various kinds of genetic hearing loss. Genetic hearing loss can affect the outer ear, inner ear or both. Conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss may result. The hearing loss doesn’t always begin at birth. It might have a later onset after a child has learned to talk (postlingual hearing loss). One of the most common disorders to affect hearing is Usher syndrome, a condition that is thought to affect over half of deaf-blind individuals according to the National Institutes of Health. Waardenburg syndrome is another common disorder that affects hearing in the inner ear but also causes pale skin, a streak of white hair, and light or multi-colored eyes.

The good news about hereditary hearing losses. Just because a parent has hearing loss, does not inevitably mean the child will have hearing loss too. The genes that cause hearing loss are usually recessive and therefore often don’t lead to any outward symptoms because the child has inherited a normal copy from the other parent. It is not unusual for the children of hearing impaired parents to have normal hearing. Because there are hundreds of genes involved in hearing, it is much more likely than not that the parental hearing losses do not share exactly the same cause. Individuals concerned with hereditary hearing loss can see a specialist for genetic testing that can help identify potential risks.

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