Certainly illness and injury can cause hearing loss, but can genetics also play a role? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes.” In fact, experts agree that most hearing loss is caused by some form of genetic irregularity. In the developed world, hearing loss is regarded as the most common genetic birth defect.

Genes, DNA & families. 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 are associated with hearing loss. If one or even more of these genes is altered or absent the result can often be hearing loss. When an individual having these irregular gene sequences has a child, the irregular gene or genes are often passed down to the child too.

Different varieties of genetic hearing loss. Hereditary hearing loss can affect the inner ear, outer ear or both. The hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive or mixed. What’s more, hereditary hearing loss can present itself at birth or later on in life. Usher syndrome affects over fifty percent 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. Telltale signs include streaks of white hair, pale skin and light-colored eyes in addition to the hearing loss.

The good news about genetic hearing losses. While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their kids, it does not necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. Genes which result in hearing loss are usually recessive. As long as the child receives a normal copy of the gene from one parent, their hearing should be normal. Since there are hundreds of different genes associated with hearing loss, even if both parents are hearing impaired, their children may not be since the parent’s hearing loss could have different root causes. For moms and dads concerned about a family history of hearing loss, genetic testing and counseling is available.