Hearing loss has always been a problem associated with hearing or overexposure to loud noises. But new research has revealed there may be a genetic component as well. Scientists at King’s College London and UCL have discovered 44 genes that are related to hearing loss, which opens up a world of possibilities for treating patients who suffer from the condition.
What Scientists Discovered About Gene-Related Hearing Loss
Up until this point, scientists had only identified five genes that could act as predictors for age-related hearing loss. This new discovery increases the number of genes by almost nine times that amount and could start driving research into new gene therapies that could treat or even reverse this hearing loss.
The research included more than 250,000 middle-aged volunteers who were asked questions about hearing loss and hearing age use, which was then paired with genetic data from each of the participants. The research linked 44 genes to hearing issues, out of which 34 had never been linked previously with any type of hearing issues.
The Risks of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss often first occurs as an inability to hear certain high-frequency sounds, which can include speech. It can manifest as difficulty hearing what other people are saying during conversations, which is made worse when there’s a lot of background noise. Some of the telltale signs of age-related hearing loss are asking people to repeat themselves multiple times during conversations and turning the TV or radio up very loudly.
Age-related hearing loss has been linked to mental health problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Anxiety and depression are also thought to be connected to hearing loss. This is because hearing loss can cause sufferers to withdraw from social situations where their hearing loss is most noticeable, which then leads to feelings of isolation. This isolation can have a devastating effect on a person’s mental health and quality of life.
Hearing loss can also pose physical problems if gone untreated. Warning sounds such as fire alarms, security systems, and car horns may go unnoticed if a person cannot hear them.
What New Treatments are Available for Gene-Related Hearing Loss?
Since this discovery is so new, there are no new treatments available for gene-related hearing loss. However, it does open the door for gene therapy research to be conducted on these new genes to find out what kind of treatments can stop, slow, or reverse hearing loss.
In the meantime, people with age-related hearing loss should continue to see their hearing specialists and stick to treatments that have worked for them in the past, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. While it might be several years before we see the results of this gene research, it’s clear that hearing loss treatment will take a leap forward due to this discovery.
What Can Be Done for Accidental Hearing Loss?
Unfortunately, these findings don’t have any impact on people who lose their hearing due to overexposure to loud noises. Fireworks, construction equipment, and firearms are some of the leading causes of non-age related hearing damage, and the best treatments available for this type of hearing loss are still hearing aids and cochlear implants.
In addition, these newly discovered genes most likely do not affect other types of hearing issues such as tinnitus. If your hearing loss is caused by a buildup of earwax, high blood pressure, or an iron deficiency, then there are several treatments available that can help your hearing.