Is there such a thing as genetic hearing loss? Without a doubt, the answer is “Yes.” Believe it or not, industry professionals agree that most hearing loss is due to some kind of genetic abnormality. On top of that, hearing loss is regarded as the most common birth defect in the developed world.

Essential genetics. Genes are basically bits of code that make up our DNA and tell our bodies what to do and how to look. Scientists have discovered over 100 genes that can negatively affect hearing. If one or even more of these genes is altered or absent the effect is often hearing loss. When an individual carrying these abnormal gene sequences has a child, the irregular gene or genes are often passed down to the child too.

Genetic hearing loss categories. Genetic hearing loss can affect the outer ear, inner ear or both. Sensorineural, conductive or mixed hearing loss may result. What’s more, genetic hearing loss can reveal itself at birth or later on in life. One of the more common conditions to affect hearing is Usher syndrome, a condition that is thought to affect over half of deaf-blind individuals according to the National Institutes of Health. Waardenburg syndrome is another prevalent disorder that affects hearing in the inner ear but also causes pale skin, a streak of white hair, and light or multi-colored eyes.

Will kids automatically inherit hearing loss? While it’s true that parents with hearing loss genes may pass them on to their kids, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the children will have a hearing problem. Most genes linked to hearing loss are recessive, which means that even when a person has an abnormal gene, that gene will not always result in problem as long as a normal copy is inherited from the other parent. It’s not uncommon for the children of hearing impaired parents to have normal hearing. Because there are hundreds of genes involved in hearing, it is more likely than not that the parental hearing losses don’t share exactly the same cause. For people concerned about a family history of hearing loss, genetic testing and counseling from an expert is suggested.