Hearing loss is often only associated with the aging process. However, hearing loss can be present at any time from infancy to advanced years. In children, 50-60% of hearing loss is due to genetics. As with any other body system, the cochlea (inner ear sensory organ) is a very complex part of the body and has a very specialize function. It requires genetic instructions to guide embryonic development and function. When a gene does not form as expected during development, it is considered a mutation. Approximately 70% of mutations causing hearing loss are non-syndromic. This means there are no associated symptoms or conditions involving other organ systems. Hearing loss can be partial or total, can impact one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral), can vary in degree of hearing loss, and can be stable or progress over time.
About 30% of gene mutations causing hearing loss are syndromic. This means hearing loss occurs in conjunction with a malformation of the ear, abnormalities in other organ systems, or medical problems involving other organ systems. There are over 400 genetic syndromes that have hearing loss as an associated symptom.
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is generally associated with changes in the inner ear where receptor cells convert sounds to nerve impulses and the central auditory pathways carrying nerve impulses to the brain.
Common causes of this type of hearing loss are:
- Family history of hearing loss
- The aging process
- Noise exposure
Many times, it is a combination of these factors. Genetics can be influential of the aging process, age at which hearing loss begins, integrity of inner ear structures and function, and predisposition to develop conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (risk factors for hearing loss).
Therefore, if you have a close family member with hearing loss, we recommend calling us at (814) 941-7770 to schedule a hearing evaluation to establish a baseline hearing assessment then annual hearing screenings to monitor possible changes in your hearing health.