This original article was first published here: Is Hearing Loss Genetic?
Hearing loss is one of the alarming conditions that can be developed for any person of any age. One in eight people in the United States above the age of 12 are suffering from hearing loss. That makes almost 30 percent of the total population of the US. There are various reasons for a person to develop hearing loss. Genetics is one of them. In this article, we are going to discuss genetic hearing loss in detail. Stay tuned to get the whole picture of the problem.
Genetic Hearing Loss
As we said earlier, there are many reasons that a person can be diagnosed with hearing loss. However, babies and children suffer most due to a hearing loss condition as they have no prior idea what normal hearing is. The frightening factor is, about 50 – 60% of hearing loss in babies is caused by genetic issues. 25% or more hearing difficulties caused in babies are due to birth complications such as difficult pregnancy, complications after birth, etc. There are also some medications that can induce hearing loss as well.
Genes contain the blueprint of a body. They actually assign a body to function in a certain way as well as grow effectively. The hair colour of a person to their physical height is determined by genes. They are also responsible for the hearing ability of a person. It is possible that sometimes a gene does not form in an expected manner. This phenomenon is known as mutation. Some genetic mutations can be passed down through generations, while some do not. When more than one person in a family has a hearing loss condition, it is suspected that the condition runs in the family.
Around 70% of mutations that cause hearing loss are non-syndromic, which means the person may not feel any other symptoms associated with hearing loss. In the rest 30% of cases, the person may develop other associated conditions along with hearing loss, such as inability to make sounds or have blindness.
Underlying Cause of Genetic Hearing Loss
The inner ear of a person is the primary organ that receives the sound signals and sends them to the brain to hear them. The cochlea and hair cells residing in the inner ear are the most responsible organ for hearing sounds. Any complications in these organs can cause hearing loss or deafness to certain degrees. The cochlea is a very complex and specialized part of the body. It requires certain instructions to guide its development and function. Our genes give these instructions. Changes in any of these genes can be responsible for a person to develop hearing loss. The connexin 26 protein in the GJB2 gene is one of them that contains the instructions for the performance of cochlea. About 40% of newborns with genetic hearing loss may not have a syndrome. In those cases, the mutation of the GJB2 gene helps to detect the problem in newborns.
Solution of Genetic Hearing Loss
There has been significant development in diagnosis and coping up with genetic hearing loss. More than 140 deafness-related genes have been discovered in recent times, resulting in a better understanding of the problem. Cochlear implants and hearing aids can assist to some degree in coping up with such conditions. As most patients with genetic hearing loss are babies and toddlers, therefore they require more delicate devices to help them hear properly. Pediatric hearing aids are highly recommended for babies as they are prepared to keep the early-aged babies, toddlers, and school-going children in mind. These devices are made from delicate materials yet very durable. In the earmold of a pediatric hearing aid, softer materials are used to bring comfort to the children. Additionally, the quality of materials is regulated highly to ensure there are no harmful or allergy-inducing materials present in those hearing aids. Most pediatric hearing aids come with indicator lights to make it easy for the parents and the teachers to know if the device is working or not.
As the understanding of genetic hearing loss increases, the diagnosis and preventive options are very close to achieving. Studies on the genes have made it possible to understand the inner ear functions at a molecular level. Moreover, these understandings have paved a path for gaining essential information and allows the patients to get correct and personalized genetic counselling. Nowadays, it’s possible to avoid unnecessary and costly clinical testing with the help of genetic diagnosis of hearing loss. In the future, we will be able to get the forecast of hearing loss, and there’s always the possibility of receiving more advanced treatment.
As concerning genetic hearing loss, much more research is being conducted to identify and treat genetic hearing loss. It is also possible to prevent genetic hearing loss through pre-pregnancy and prenatal diagnosis counselling. We cannot wait to see what medical science can do to prevent genetic hearing loss in the future.
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