Why You Should Know Your Family’s Hearing Health History

Senior friends with good hearing health enjoying time outdoors.

It’s fun to look through family photo albums and pick out similar traits and characteristics between family members: same eye or hair color, a distinct nose, mouth or face shape, or a unique smile. But there also are many genetic traits passed down from generation to generation that people can’t see, such as shared risk factors for health conditions. That’s why it’s important to know your family’s medical history, including their hearing health.

Ask questions

Make a list of your mother and father’s family members, including their parents and siblings. Ask about the medical conditions or health problems each person has experienced, such as chronic diseases, vision problems and hearing issues.

Catalog the responses and give this record to other family members. There’s a good chance they’ll want to share this information with their children and health providers.

Encourage siblings to watch for these symptoms as they age and modify their lifestyles to head off potential problems.

Check hearing health

When collecting family medical history information, ask about hearing health concerns. Did any family members lose their hearing at an early age? Have any had problems with dizziness or balance issues? Did doctors find causes for these conditions?

Some people experience hearing loss from prolonged exposure to loud noises. But hearing loss can develop from hereditary disorders. Here are three conditions to know about:

  • Usher syndrome

People who have hearing loss and an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa may develop Usher syndrome. This disorder accounts for nearly 50 percent of hereditary cases of combined deafness and blindness. There are three hereditary forms of Usher syndrome:

  • Type 1 – At birth, babies exhibit severe hearing loss or deafness and balance problems.
  • Type 2 – Infants have moderate to severe hearing loss and normal balance. Symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa are identified in late adolescence.
  • Type 3 – Children are born with normal hearing and balance but show signs of hearing loss and vision problems as adolescents.

Medical experts say that Usher syndrome is treatable with hearing aids, cochlear implant, auditory training or assistive listening devices.

  • Pendred syndrome

Family members who developed early hearing loss or had a combination of goiters and hearing loss, may carry a mutated gene that causes a recessive trait called Pendred syndrome.

Pendred syndrome can cause hearing loss, along with balance and thyroid problems. About five to 10 percent of children with inherited hearing loss have Pendred syndrome. Although there is no known cure, hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

  • Otosclerosis

Children with this disorder develop an abnormal bone growth in the middle of the ear. This growth affects the stapes (or stirrup) bone, which sends sound vibrations to the inner ear.

Usually, otosclerosis is detected as children develop and exhibit signs of hearing loss, especially difficulty hearing low pitches and sounds, dizziness, balance issues or tinnitus. Children of one parent with otosclerosis have a 25 percent higher chance of developing the disorder. If both parents have the condition, the risk increases to 50 percent. Some cases of otosclerosis are correctable with surgery.

Good hearing is important for kids to learn and be safe. If hearing problems develop and go undetected, kids may struggle to grow and adapt to the world around them. Read this blog to learn five things about kids and hearing loss.

Healthy Hearing