Can hearing loss be written into your family genes? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes.” Genetic abnormalities actually lay at the root of most types of hearing loss. Furthermore, developmental experts consider genetic hearing loss to be the most frequently occurring birth defect in developed countries.

A primer on genetics. They way your body looks and functions is governed by the genetic code of your DNA – your genes. Researchers have discovered more than 100 genes that can impact hearing. Hearing loss can result from any one of these genes being missing or altered. When an individual having these irregular gene sequences has a child, the abnormal gene or genes can be passed on to the child too.

Types of genetic hearing loss. Genetic hearing loss can affect the outer ear, inner ear or both. Depending on the particular cause, the ensuing hearing loss is classified as conductive, senorineural or mixed (which is a combination of the two). Additionally, some genes may cause hearing loss before a child learns to talk (prelingual hearing loss), and other genes cause hearing impairments that show up after speech is learned (postlingual hearing loss). Usher syndrome affects over fifty percent of the deaf-blind population, making it one of the most widespread causes of hearing loss. Waardenburg syndrome is another prevalent disorder that affects hearing in the inner ear but also causes pale skin, a streak of white hair, and light-colored or multi-colored eyes.

Is there any good news? While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their children, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. Most genes related to hearing loss are recessive, which means that even when an individual has an irregular gene, that gene will not always cause a problem so long as a normal copy is received from the other parent. Even if both parents have hearing loss, their kids may still not be affected because different genes may be responsible in each parent. Individuals concerned with genetic hearing loss can see a doctor for genetic testing that can help identify potential risks.

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