Turning to Science for Answers: Is There a Genetic Component to Hearing Health and Related Disorders?

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WorldExecutivesDigest.com | Turning to Science for Answers: Is There a Genetic Component to Hearing Health and Related Disorders? | Interest in genetics has grown exponentially in the last few years. The trend has even made it to television, with celebrities researching their ancestry on the American television show, Finding Your Roots. Genealogical DNA tests and websites that trace genealogy are a popular hobby for information about one’s ethnical background. 

However, the interest scientists have in genetics and what is in our DNA is about more than tracking down relatives or forming connections to the past. Genetic testing is about seeing what’s coming in the future and uncovering potential breakthroughs in treating inherited medical problems. 

Hearing loss is just one of the thousands of medical problems scientists are learning more about through genetics. Knowing the causes behind hearing impairment can help in developing assistive-listening devices. 

Hearing aids are one of the devices millions of people find beneficial for accommodating the hearing loss. However, hearing aids can be pricey if the device isn’t covered under medical insurance policies, which they often aren’t. Hearing aids for every budget are available if you look in the right place. 

Most people relate genetics to their eye and hair color or dimples in their cheeks. However, genetics plays a significant role in a person’s overall health. A connection between genetics and hearing loss is a somewhat new field that scientists are actively exploring right now. 

What Causes Hearing Loss – Genetic Hearing Loss vs. Acquired Hearing Loss

As with most medical problems, hearing loss has many different causes and variables in the severity of hearing impairment. Some people are born with hearing loss while others have normal hearing as a child and suffer hearing loss later in life. 

Hearing loss is often placed in two categories – genetic hearing loss and acquired hearing loss. Even still, each category has its own variables and contrasts. Acquired hearing loss, for example, can be caused by frequent exposure to loud noises or an untreated fever. 

Genetic hearing loss occurs through a mutation in the genes that are passed down through the familial line. Many people don’t know they have the gene that causes hearing loss until after their hearing has been affected. 

Some Types of Hearing Loss Come with Additional Symptoms

Further breaking down the causes for hearing loss results in the syndromic versus nonsyndromic designation. Nonsyndromic hearing loss is hearing loss with no other symptoms or medical problems besides the hearing impairment. 

With syndromic hearing loss, however, other symptoms are present. For example, syndromic hearing loss may also be accompanied by blindness or vision problems. Genetics plays a role in whether hearing loss is the sole symptom or if more symptoms exist. 

How Environmental Factors Can Induce Hearing Loss

The term “environmental factors” in regards to hearing loss is most often associated with attending loud rock concerts, working in construction or other examples of prolonged exposure to loud noises. 

However, other environmental factors, such as illness, can result in the activation of the inherited mutant gene. Additionally, the gene mutation can skip generations. A child born with hearing loss can have parents with completely normal hearing. 

Scientific Advancements in Treating Hearing Loss

Scientific advancements in treating hearing loss have progressed rapidly in the last decade. Hearing aids are the most recognizable assistive device to treat hearing loss. However, cochlear implants and brainstem implants, for those with the damaged cochlea, are on the rise. 

EurekAlert keeps up-to-date on all the latest advances scientists have discovered for potentially curing hearing loss. A recent report indicates that scientists are hopeful about a drug they’ve developed that repairs damaged cells in the inner ear. 

Hearing Loss Can Be Scary, But Hereditary Hearing Loss Can Be Predicted

Losing your hearing, especially later in life, can be a traumatizing experience that upends social connections, self-esteem, and quality of life. It’s even especially daunting knowing that you may have unknowingly passed the hearing loss gene onto future generations. 

Genetic testing can’t reverse the mutation of the genes, but it can help families prepare for possible hearing loss epidemic running through their genealogical line.