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McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

Is hearing loss genetic? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes.” If you look at the data, genetic causes are actually the largest category of hearing losses. On top of that, hearing loss is regarded as the most common birth defect in the developed world.

Essential genetics. Genes are basically pieces of code that make up our DNA and tell our bodies how to function and how to look. More than 100 different genes have been found that relate to hearing loss. If any of these genes are modified or absent from the DNA, hearing loss is frequently the end result. Parental genes are passed to children, so any irregular gene sequences which cause hearing loss are passed down.

Types of genetic hearing loss. Hereditary hearing loss can affect the outer ear, inner ear or both. Depending on the specific cause, the resulting hearing loss is classified as conductive, senorineural or mixed (which is a combination of the two). Additionally, some genes result in hearing loss before a person learns to speak (prelingual hearing loss), and other genes cause hearing impairments that appear after speech is learned (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-colored eyes in addition to the hearing loss.

What’s the good news? While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their children, it does not necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. Genes which result in hearing loss are commonly recessive. So long as the child inherits a normal copy of the gene from one parent, their hearing should be normal. Even if both parents suffer from hearing loss, their kids may still not be affected because different genes may be responsible in each parent. People concerned with hereditary hearing loss can see a specialist for genetic testing that can help identify risks.