Is There a Genetic Component to Hearing Loss?

Many people believe that as we grow older, it’s inevitable that we’re going to lose our hearing. However, that’s not the case. Hearing loss can be a result of a number of factors, and people would be surprised to discover that one of those is genetic.

Yes, genes can play a factor in whether you experience hearing loss or not. This can result in a number of conditions that affect hearing.

Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a rare condition of the ear that results in hearing loss. There is a part of the inner ear,  a bone to be exact, called the stapes, that gets stuck in place. The stapes’ bones vibrate in order for you to hear. Without this vibration, then you’re not going to hear anything.

Otosclerosis is a genetic condition, so it can be passed on to offspring. It usually presents itself in a person’s 20s and gets worse over time. Caucasians are more prone to develop the condition, and other conditions increase the chances of developing the condition, such as contracting measles and immune disorders.

Usher’s Syndrome Types II and III

Usher syndrome type II presents itself as hearing loss at birth and progressive vision loss as the individual gets older. Hearing loss can be mild to severe and is focused on sounds in the high-frequency range.

Usher syndrome type III presents itself much later in life, and the individual will have normal hearing at birth. Hearing loss usually starts during adolescence and gradually get worse. The use of hearing aids can help with the problem, but it may become too severe to help later on in life.

Pendred Syndrome

Pendred syndrome is usually present at birth and affects the vestibular aqueducts on the inner ear. These aqueducts are tiny, bony canals that extend from the inner ear towards the brain. An individual with Pendred syndrome has wider aqueducts than normal, which makes it easier for them to be traumatized.

Hearing loss becomes worse over the years, and severe deafness can occur if there is any kind of head injury.

Mutations of Inner Ear Sensory Hair Cells

The inner hair cells are responsible for detecting movement in the environment and transform the vibrations into electrical signals that the brain can understand.

It’s natural that any mutations in these cells affect these primary functions, meaning that the signals won’t reach the brain as well as they should.

Deformation of the Inner Ear

There are a number of deformations that can have an effect on the ear and hearing in general. Certain genetic conditions can make it difficult for the ear to full form or for something to go wrong in the middle or inner ear.

Many of these conditions can lead to hearing loss or deafness altogether, which can affect one’s quality of life but only slightly.

Genetic conditions that result in hearing loss have led to scientists and researchers looking for genetic solutions to these problems, such as stem cell therapy as well as gene therapy. There won’t be any miracle cures any time soon, but it’s not a hopeless cause to save more people’s hearing.

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