Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of different things. For example: continuous exposure to loud noise; age; and even some ototoxic medications can be causes of permanent damage to your hearing. But, is hearing loss hereditary? And can you protect against genetic hearing loss? Those are questions that are worth asking, and here’s why.
Hearing Loss and Genetics
Our genes determine who we are, what we look like, and how we hear. Studies in human genetics have found 100 different types of genes to date that are responsible for hearing (1). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 50%-60% of hearing loss in babies is due to genetic causes, in comparison to 25% of hearing loss in babies that is due to environmental causes such as maternal infections during pregnancy and complications after birth (2).
Is Hearing Loss Hereditary?
Hearing loss can be hereditary. Genes carry the information that tells our cells how to grow. If there is a gene mutation that runs in a family, it is possible for hearing loss to be “familiar”.
While not a certainty, it is possible that if one or both parents present with hearing loss, their child would also have a hearing loss. That said, two parents with completely normal hearing can also have children with hearing loss. Dormant genes, errors in gene duplication, and perfect copies of faulty genes can all cause hearing loss.
Genetic Hearing Loss at Birth
1 in every 1000 to 2000 babies is born with profound hearing loss (3). Of those, more than 50% are hereditary. It is the most common sensory disorder.
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs are essential to know if an infant has hearing loss. Tests are usually conducted after birth or before the newborn is discharged from the hospital.
Recent studies suggest that some children with GJB2 gene mutations may not have hearing loss at birth, but develop hearing loss later on in life(4). But, whether it can be attributed to the current EHDI, or if it truly is a delay in onset of hearing loss is still unknown. That is why follow-up EHDI testing is essential.
Genetic Hearing Loss in Later Life Stages
Up to 50% of people over the age of 60 have hearing loss. This means that the hearing loss is severe enough that it impacts their daily life. This increases to 80% of adults over age 85.
Although some people may be predisposed to hearing loss it’s possible that they will not experience hearing loss without outside influence. These influences include:
- Continuous exposure to loud noise
- Ototoxic medications
If hearing loss is common in your family, it’s best to be as cautious as possible. Avoid exposure to loud noise when possible, check with your hearing healthcare practitioner if any medications you are taking may be ototoxic, and always eat a healthy, varied diet.
Common Genetic Hearing Disorders
One of the most common ear conditions, otosclerosis, affects the middle ear. It is caused by abnormal growth of the three tiny bones in the middle ear, called the ossicles, The stapes, one of the three ossicles, is most commonly affected. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, it is estimated that 60% of otosclerosis cases have a genetic cause (5), though the exact genes and cause are yet to be fully understood.
If there is any chance that you might have a history of hearing loss in your family, it is highly recommended that you conduct a three-generation family history, focusing on other relatives with hearing loss and any associated findings. Once you have determined if you might be predisposed to developing hearing loss, you can take the necessary actions and precautions.
How can Go Hearing help you?
The Go Hearing Online Hearing Screener
If you suspect you have hearing loss, speak to a hearing healthcare practitioner as quickly as possible. As a first step, you can also try Go Hearing’s free online hearing screener today.
Go Hearing Aids for Hearing Loss
Go Hearing offers two hearing aids that help people hear better on the go. The Go Lite and Go Prime hearing aids are available for purchase on the Go Hearing website, or by phoning (302) 754-3190, Mondays - Saturdays: 9 am - 8 pm EST.
Souces: 1. “Genetics of Hearing and Deafness,” National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information (website), accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440668/
2. “Genetics of Hearing Loss,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (website), accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/genetics.html#:~:text=50%25%20to%2060%25%20of%20hearing,pregnancy%20and%20complications%20after%20birth.
3. “Clinical aspects of hereditary hearing loss” - Nature.com (website) accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/gim200764
4. “Does universal newborn hearing screening identify all children with GJB2 (Connexin 26) deafness? Penetrance of GJB2 deafness,” National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information (website), accessed July 13, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17086082/
5. “Otosclerosis,” ENT Health Powered by American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (website), accessed July 13, 2022. https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/otosclerosis/
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