Everybody knows that noise, injuries and certain illnesses can result in hearing loss, but are your genes involved? Quite simply, the answer is “Yes.” Believe it or not, industry professionals agree that most hearing loss is due to some kind of genetic irregularity. In the developed world, hearing loss is regarded as the most frequent hereditary birth defect.
A primer on genetics. They way your body looks and functions is governed by the genetic code of your DNA – your genes. Researchers have identified more than 100 genes that can negatively affect hearing. If one or even more of these genes is altered or absent the result is often hearing loss. When a person 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. Some forms of inherited hearing loss can visibly impact the outer ear, while other forms just affect hearing in the inner ear. Conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss may arise. Note that, hereditary hearing loss can reveal itself at birth or later on in life. Usher syndrome affects more than half of the deaf-blind population, making it one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Another common genetic condition is Waardenburg syndrome, a condition in which hearing loss occurs in the inner ear but external effects such as light eyes, light skin and a white flash of hair may be also be observed.
What’s the good news? While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their children, it does not necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. The genes that cause hearing loss are usually recessive and therefore frequently don’t result in any outward symptoms because the child has inherited a normal copy from the other parent. Even when both parents suffer from hearing loss, their child may still not be affected by hearing loss because different genes may be responsible in each parent. For people worried about a family history of hearing loss, genetic testing and counseling from an expert is suggested.