One of the common causes of deafness, hereditary hearing loss is passed down from generation to generation. In this type of hearing loss, unlike those caused by disease, infections or loud noise, hearing loss is caused by genetic factors. Some people are more likely to have hearing loss than others though, so preventing further hearing loss could mean protecting the hearing you do have.
Genetic-related hearing loss, like other hereditary conditions, are passed through the genes and cover a range of severity from mild to full deafness. Hereditary hearing problems cover a wide range of hearing loss and causes of deafness. With over 400 different forms of genetic hearing issues, an enormous number of people are affected. Genetic hearing problems differ by certain factors, including:
- How your hearing loss was inherited
- Vestibular disorders, such as vertigo
- Other medical or physical characteristics or deformations
When it comes to hereditary conditions, most cases come with no other syndromes or conditions. However, 30% to 40% of those with genetic hearing loss also display syndromic situations. This means that more than your hearing can be affected, such as other organs. Some examples of hereditary hearing loss in relation to medical disorders include the following:
- Treacher-Collins syndrome
- Pendred syndrome
- DiGeorge syndrome
- Usher’s syndrome
- Age-related loss
How can Hearing be Inherited?
Genetic material is passed down from parents to children, and often hereditary loss is caused by a gene mutation. Either you could inherit genes that cause hearing loss or undesirable genes. It’s also possible that a child can be born to two parents without hearing loss, as some people can carry a gene mutation in their DNA without demonstrating any signs of symptoms themselves.
In fact, 80% of congenital hearing loss in more developed countries are caused by genetics.
Some people don’t show signs of hereditary hearing loss until later in life, which is also known as a late-onset hearing loss. In this type of loss, medication, noise exposure, and health conditions could have damaged your hearing over time or you could have come into contact with an environmental factor that simply triggers the loss. Combined with your inherited genes, your hearing can become seriously impaired later in life.
Likewise, if you have a family member with hearing loss, you may never actually demonstrate hearing loss yourself. Chance means you may not inherit the exact same gene, and some genes will only impact one gender or another, so you may only carry the gene. Some of the other factors commonly associated with hearing problems include:
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Loud noise
Autosomal Dominant Hearing Loss
In genetics, some genes are dominant while others are recessive, meaning that some genes (dominant) show more visibly while others (recessive) simply carry a gene that doesn’t really affect them. Dominant genes in respect to hearing loss result from a parent carrying the dominant gene. The gene is then passed to the child, along with the hearing loss.
Usually, all it takes is one parent with a genetic hearing defect to produce a kid with some level of hearing loss. One of the parents will typically also demonstrate hearing loss. If not, a grandparent nearly always will.
This disease can also show up in children without the abnormal gene. However, if there is an abnormal gene, it often is dominant as well. Parent of children diagnosed by a medical professional as having inherited an autosomal dominant disease should also be tested.
Treatment Options for Genetic Hearing Loss
If your child is born with a genetic hearing disorder or loss, you should find medical help as soon as possible to avoid any further damage. Children need to begin treatment before six months old to assist in communication skills that are imperative to their development.
A number of treatment options are available to those with hereditary hearing loss of any age, depending on what a doctor deems right for your particular case. Kids as young as four weeks old can benefit from using a hearing aid, which is the first and most important treatment option for this type of hearing trouble.
Advances in science and technology in the last decade have brought on an abundance of new understanding about the inner ear and varying hearing problems. Today, scientists can pinpoint several genes responsible for passing on hereditary hearing loss and deafness, usually in gene mutations. Screening tests for some of these genes, such as the GJB2 gene, are available to help at-risk people.
Many parents also choose to learn sign language and teach their children to read lips.
A diverse and wide-ranging condition, hereditary hearing loss or deafness can cause many other complications or impact children’s communication skills if the problem goes untreated. If you have a family member with a genetic hearing problem, you most likely either have it as well or have the ability to pass it on to your own children later. Families and their doctors should decide which treatment option is right.