Can Hearing Loss Be Inherited?

Mature woman reading about inherited hearing loss

Your dad needed hearing aids a decade before he got them.  And his dad, your grandad watched the TV with the volume so loud you remember being able to hear it outside the house.  You know you’ve been saying, “What did you say.” more in the past year than ever before.  Is it possible you’ve inherited a hearing loss from someone in your family?  The answer is, maybe.

Categorizing Hearing Loss

We can categorize hearing loss in a variety of ways.  For this article, we’ll narrow it down to two broad categories, genetic hearing loss, and non-genetic hearing loss.

Genetic Hearing Loss

A genetic hearing loss is a pathological condition caused by an absent or defective gene or by a chromosomal aberration.  Each parent contributes half of every child’s genes.  Scientists have identified more than 400 different forms of hereditary hearing loss.  The type of hearing loss caused by an inherited disorder will vary depending on the structure of the ear that is involved.

  • Conductive hearing loss results from abnormalities of the external ear and the ossicles of the middle ear.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss results from a malfunction of inner ear structures (i.e., cochlea or auditory nerve).
  • Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Damage or dysfunction at the level of the eighth cranial nerve, auditory brain stem, or cerebral cortex can result in central auditory dysfunction.

Non-Genetic Hearing Loss

A non-genetic hearing loss is a hearing loss that is the result of trauma or illness. Infants who required a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit are at increased risk for developing hearing loss due to hypoxia, hyperbilirubinemia, very low birth weight, and ototoxic medications. Although meningitis has decreased in frequency, it is still a risk factor for hearing loss. Cytomegalovirus remains the most common congenital infection and a relatively common etiology of hearing loss, which can be progressive. Preventable non-genetic causes of hearing loss include those caused by head trauma, noise, and ototoxic medications.

So, is your hearing loss inherited?

A genetic hearing loss may or may not be evident at birth.  It’s possible for someone with a genetic hearing loss to be unaware that they have a genetic hearing loss until the problem worsens.  The onset of the hearing loss will impact a child’s acquisition of language depending on the following

  • A prelingual hearing loss is present before speech develops. All congenital (present at birth) hearing loss is prelingual, but not all prelingual hearing loss is congenital.
  • Postlingual hearing loss occurs after the development of normal speech.

An existing condition can be made worse in any number of ways, here are just a few:

  • Exposure to every day and workplace noises
  • Medications that may cause hearing loss
  • Trauma to the ear

Whether you inherited your hearing loss or not, we may not be able to determine.  But what we can tell you is this:  if you have a problem hearing, in all likelihood, your hearing won’t get any better.   But there is good news, if we find a problem, there’s a good chance we can provide a solution. Don’t wait; call us today.