We all know that injuries, noise exposure and selected diseases can result in hearing loss, but are your genes involved? The simple response to this question is ‚Yes. If you look at the numbers, genetic causes are actually the main category of hearing losses. Additionally, hearing loss is regarded as the most common birth defect in the developed world.

Genes, DNA & families. Genes are basically bits of code that make up our DNA and tell our bodies how to function and how to look. Hearing is a sophisticated body function which is known to involve no less than 100 distinct genes. If one or even more of these genes is altered or absent the effect can often be hearing loss. These irregular gene codes are handed down through families from parents to their children.

Various kinds of genetic hearing loss. Some varieties of hereditary hearing loss can visibly affect the outer ear, while other kinds just affect hearing in the inner ear. Depending on the particular cause, the ensuing hearing loss is classified as sensorineural, conductive or mixed (which is a mixture of the two). Note that, hereditary hearing loss can reveal itself at birth or later in life. One of the most common disorders to affect hearing is Usher syndrome, a condition that is believed to afflict over 50% of deaf-blind individuals according to the National Institutes of Health. Another prevalent hereditary condition is Waardenburg syndrome, a disorder 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 seen.

Will children automatically inherit hearing loss? Just because a parent has hearing loss, doesn’t automatically mean the child will have hearing loss too. The genes that contribute to hearing loss are typically recessive and therefore frequently don’t lead to any outward symptoms because the child has inherited a normal copy from the other parent. Since there are hundreds of different genes linked to hearing loss, even if both parents are hearing impaired, their children may not be since the parent’s hearing loss can have different root causes. Genetic testing is available for families who suspect hearing loss is in their genes.

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