Everyone knows that injuries, noise exposure and certain illnesses can result in hearing loss, but are your genes involved? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes.” When you look at the numbers, genetic factors are actually the largest category of hearing losses. Additionally, hearing loss is considered the most prevalent birth defect in the developed world.
A primer on genetics. They way your body functions and looks is governed by the genetic code of your DNA – your genes. Over 100 distinct genes have been found that are associated with hearing loss. If one or even more of these genes is changed or missing the effect is often hearing loss. Parental genes are passed to children, so any irregular gene sequences which cause hearing loss are handed down.
Genetic hearing loss variations. Some forms of genetic hearing loss can visibly impact the outer ear, while other forms just affect hearing in the inner ear. Sensorineural, conductive or mixed hearing loss may result. The hearing loss does not necessarily begin at birth. It might have a later onset after the toddler has learned to speak (postlingual hearing loss). Usher syndrome affects over fifty percent 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. Distinguishing characteristics include pale skin, a streak of white hair and light or multi-colored eyes in addition to the hearing loss.
Is there any good news? While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their kids, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. 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. Because there are hundreds of distinct genes associated with hearing loss, even if both parents are hearing impaired, their children may not be since the parent’s hearing loss could have different underlying causes. Genetic screening is available for individuals who believe hearing loss is in their family genes.