Genetic Hearing Loss: Identifying Hearing Loss in Children

hearing aid for chilren

There are various causes of hearing loss. Often times we associate hearing loss with natural aging; however, roughly half of babies experience hearing loss because of genetics. This means that some individuals are predisposed to hearing loss.

In this blog post, we’re going to break down the key information you need to know when it comes to genetic hearing loss. We will also offer an overview of what factors are at play. As a parent, we know that identifying hearing loss in your child is key to understanding changes that will affect them as they continue to grow and develop. Keep in mind that the following information is a general overview. For individual advice, please contact us. 

Genetic Factors That Affect Hearing Loss

There are two categories of hearing loss: non-syndromic and syndromic. Non-syndromic refers to hearing loss that occurs without any symptoms and syndromic refers to hearing loss with symptoms that are of medical importance. Recognizing patterns can help identify what genetic factors are at play.

Here are some common patterns of inheritance:

  • Autosomal Recessive- This is a factor when the child receives a hearing loss gene from each parent. It can be difficult to understand this condition since some parents will have normal hearing (unaffected carriers) and genetic refers to previously in the family. 
  • Autosomal DominantWith the autosomal dominant pattern, being male or female has nothing to do with the chances of experiencing hearing loss. Autosomal dominant hearing loss runs through families from generations to generations and it can also take place for the first time as a result of a gene change. In short, it varies greatly between family members. 
  • X-Linked X-linked, also known as Sex-Linked, occurs when there have been changes in the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes and do not show the effects of altered genes on the X chromosome. For males, with one X chromosome, they will see the effects of an altered gene on the X chromosome,  
  • Mitochondrial Gene CausesThe mitochondria are the structure of the cell that produces the energy the cells need to survive. When there are errors in the mitochondrial genes, it can affect the kidneys, muscles, eyes, heart, and ears. These changes ultimately result in hearing loss.

Identifying Hearing Loss

There are many causes of hearing loss. Often times it is a combination of genetics and non-genetic factors. For babies, the cause of hearing loss may be unknown.

About one in 500 infants are born with hearing loss or will develop symptoms during early childhood. When a baby is born with hearing loss, this is known as congenital. However, if hearing loss happens after birth, this is called acquired. Moreover, hearing loss can get worse over time. When this happens, this is called progressive but if the hearing doesn’t change, this is known as non-progressive. If hearing loss runs in the family, it is called familial

The causes of hearing loss in babies and children are not always easy to identify. Since genes are passed down to parents then to their children but there can be disruptions, identifying the genes at play requires medical testing. Doctors will examine the medical history, including family history, physical features, as well as any signs of genetic differences between parents and infants. The relationship between cells, chromosomes, DNA, bases, and genes all play a role in identifying changes or mutations. 

What Should I Be Looking For in My Child?

There hearing milestones that your child should experience during the first year of their life. 

  • Newborns will be startled or jump when they hear sudden noises.
  • At three months, babies recognize their parent’s voice.
  • By six months, a baby will begin to turn his or her eyes toward a sound.
  • As your baby’s first birthday approaches, they will imitate sounds and repeat words such as “mama” or “papa” (easy to pronounce words).

Parents, Get the Answers You Need

Speaking about your child’s hearing loss is key to understanding their needs. If you suspect your child has hearing problems, speak your pediatrician or family doctor. The sooner you are able to recognize your child’s hearing needs, the sooner you can begin to make the right adjustments.

Contact Mission Hearing Aid Center to learn more.

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