The Role of Genes and Genetics in Hearing Loss

Undoubtedly injury and illness can lead to hearing loss, but could genetics also contribute? Yes. Hearing loss can have a genetic cause. Genetic abnormalities actually lay at the root of most types of hearing loss. Furthermore, developmental experts consider genetic hearing loss to be the most commonly occurring birth defect in developed countries.

A quick lesson in genetics. Our is DNA composed of genes, which act like tiny pieces of code that, when set in a certain combination, cause us to look and function the way we do. Over 100 different genes have been found that are associated with hearing loss. If one or even more of these genes is altered or missing the effect can often be hearing loss. When an individual having these abnormal gene sequences has a child, the irregular gene or genes can be passed on to the child too.

Varieties of genetic hearing loss. Genetic hearing losses can stem from flaws in the inner ear, outer ear or both areas. The hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive or mixed. Besides that, some genes result in hearing loss before a person learns to talk (prelingual hearing loss), and other genes cause hearing impairments that show up after speech is learned (postlingual hearing loss). Usher syndrome affects more than half of the deaf-blind population, making it one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Another named condition that includes hearing loss is Waardenburg syndrome. Telltale signs include streaks of white hair, pale skin and light or multi-colored eyes in addition to the hearing loss.

Is there any good news? Just because a parent has hearing loss, doesn’t inevitably mean the child will have hearing loss too. Genes which contribute to hearing loss are usually recessive. As long as the child receives a normal copy of the gene from one parent, their hearing should be normal. Even if both parents have hearing loss, their children may still not be affected because different genes may be responsible in each parent. For moms and dads worried about a family history of hearing loss, genetic testing and counseling from an expert is advised.