Over 13 years, the Human Genome Project (HGP) identified the more than 20,000 genes that comprise the full range of human DNA — along with the 3 billion chemical base pair sequences that make up that DNA.
That vast web of genes act as the instruction manual that humans — and all life forms — follow as they grow and develop. When something goes wrong with the information being passed from one generation to the next it is known as a mutation, which happens both naturally and due to exterior forces such as radiation exposure.
Some of that data regards the highly developed ability of humans to hear.
Over 60 genes playing a role in hearing loss have been identified. Problems with them cause inherited auditory disorders, which are the culprit in the majority of newborns that display hearing loss at birth.
The network of organs, bones, nerves — and the coordination between them — that make up the human ear is incredibly complex. Not too many things have to go wrong while the ear is developing to throw off the ability of the whole to function properly.
The fact that only approximately 1 percent of humans are born with hearing issues is impressive, given the fine-tuning and delicacy of the ear’s individual parts.
Two primary terms categorize genetic hearing disorders. Autosomal recessive hearing loss occurs when both parents have genes that can trigger hearing loss (even when neither parent has the syndrome themselves). When genetic information is passed on via only one parent who also has hearing loss, it is known as autosomal dominant hearing loss.
Until science advances to a point that such genetic issues can be corrected in the womb, genetic hearing loss will continue to impact a small number of people.