Is Hearing Loss in Your Genes?

Is there such a thing as genetic hearing loss? Yes. Hearing loss can have a genetic cause. Genetic abnormalities actually cause most forms of hearing loss. Furthermore, developmental experts consider genetic hearing loss to be the most common birth defect in developed countries.

Genetics 101. Genes are basically pieces of code that make up our DNA and tell our bodies what to do and how to look. More than 100 distinct genes have been discovered that are associated with hearing loss. Hearing loss may result from any one of these genes being missing or modified. Parent genes are passed to children, so any irregular gene sequences which cause hearing loss are passed down.

Varieties of genetic hearing loss. Genetic hearing loss can affect the inner ear, outer ear or both. Sensorineural, conductive or mixed hearing loss may arise. The hearing loss does not necessarily begin at birth. It might have a later onset after the child has learned to speak (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 disorder that includes hearing loss is Waardenburg syndrome. Distinguishing characteristics include streaks of white hair, pale skin and light or multi-colored eyes in addition to the hearing loss.

Will kids automatically inherit hearing loss? While it is true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their kids, it does not necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. The genes that contribute to hearing loss are usually recessive and therefore frequently don’t result in any outward symptoms because the child has received a normal copy from the other parent. Even when both parents suffer from hearing loss, their kids may still not be affected by hearing loss because different genes may be responsible in each parent. Genetic screening is available for individuals who believe hearing loss is in their family genes.

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