Genes May Be Key to Hearing Loss

A group on chromosome 3 may influence ear trouble in young and old, study finds

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TUESDAY, May 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say genes on chromosome 3 that are associated with a type of progressive hereditary hearing loss in younger adults may also be linked to hearing loss in older men.

The study of 50 pairs of elderly male fraternal twins with hearing loss found evidence of genes linked to age-related hearing loss on chromosome 3q, near a gene locus (location) called DFNA18.

According to researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, this same locus is believed to contain a gene that causes a condition found in young adults called early-onset autosomal dominant hearing loss.

More research is needed in order to determine exactly which gene contributes to age-related hearing loss and whether the same gene may also be responsible for early-onset hearing loss. It's possible that genes in or near the DFNA18 locus "might be responsible for a substantial percentage of hearing loss with aging in the general population," the study authors wrote.

Age-associated hearing loss affects about 25 percent to 30 percent of people age 65 and older. A previous study suggested that age-related hearing loss is at least 40 percent heritable. Few studies have examined specific genetic factors that may be associated with age-related hearing loss.

The findings appear in the May issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about hearing loss.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, May 15, 2006

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