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Genetic Causes for Hearing Loss in Children

by April Maguire

Typically, we think of hearing loss as a disorder that affects the elderly. To be sure, the rate of hearing loss is certainly highest among senior citizens, but they're far from the only ones who suffer from this affliction. In fact, a number of children are born with hearing deficiencies as a result of their genetic encoding. While it can be difficult to determine which genetic traits you're going to pass down to your children, it's important to know whether or not they're at a higher risk of developing hearing loss.

It's All in the Genes

If it's been a while since you sat through a basic human science class, here's a quick refresher. Our genetic makeup is a mixture of the DNA that we inherit from our parents. When it comes to problems like hearing loss, the faulty genes are often passed down through the generations, in what is known as familial hearing loss. Alternatively, hearing loss can strike just a single member of the family, in which case it's called sporadic. In either event, genetic hearing loss is caused by a specific combination of parental DNA.

In most cases, hearing loss is triggered by recessive genes. These genes are only expressed when they're inherited from both parents, and even in cases when the parents share the same recessive gene, the child only has a 25% of having it passed down to him or her. Still, these recessive traits are responsible for roughly 70% of genetic hearing loss among children.

Dominant genes, however, only need to be passed down from one parent. In these cases, the child has a 50% chance of developing hearing loss as a result of the genetic encoding. Even though the risk of inheritance is greater, this type of DNA code is only responsible for 15% of genetic hearing loss. The other 15% of hearing loss due to genetics is the result of alternative modes of inheritance, such genetic markers on the X chromosome or mitochondrial disorders.

All told, there are more than 400 genetic codes that could lead to hearing loss in children. Some of these are evident right away, with a child being born deaf. Other genetic disorders are degenerative, with hearing ability slowly deteriorating over time.

The only way to properly assess your child's risk of developing hearing loss from their DNA is to undergo genetic counseling. Even before you get pregnant, your doctor will be able to tell you the likelihood of passing along a genetic predisposition towards hearing loss or any number of other undesirable traits. This information can be invaluable as you plan for your family's future.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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