Everybody knows that noise, injuries and selected diseases can lead to hearing loss, but are your genes involved? Yes. Hearing loss can have a genetic cause. Genetic abnormalities actually cause most types of hearing loss. Furthermore, developmental experts consider genetic hearing loss to be the most common birth defect in developed countries.
Genes, DNA & families. Genes are essentially bits of code that make up our DNA and tell our bodies how to function and how to look. More than 100 distinct genes have been found that relate to hearing loss. If one or even more of these genes is altered or absent the result can often be hearing loss. These irregular gene codes are passed down through families from parents to their children.
Various varieties of genetic hearing loss. Some types of genetic hearing loss can visibly impact the outer ear, while other types just influence hearing in the inner ear. Depending on the particular cause, the resulting hearing loss is classified as conductive, senorineural or mixed (which is a combination of the two). Note that, genetic hearing loss can reveal itself at birth or later in life. A few of the genetic conditions are common enough to have names. For example, Usher syndrome impacts about half of the deaf-blind population. Another named disorder 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.
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. Genes which contribute to hearing loss are usually recessive. So long as the child receives a normal copy of the gene from one parent, their hearing should be normal. Since there are hundreds of different genes involved in hearing loss, even if both parents are hearing impaired, their kids may not be since the parent’s hearing loss can have different underlying causes. Individuals concerned with hereditary hearing loss can see a specialist for genetic testing that can help identify potential risks.