LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Researchers from King’s College London, and University College London (UCL), have identified 44 genes linked to age-related hearing loss. The study helps shed light and provide a much clearer understanding of how the condition develops, and also potential treatment options in the future.
The study, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics on September 26, analyzed the genetic data from over 250,000 participants of the UK Biobank aged 40-69 years to see which genes were associated with people who had reported having or not having hearing problems on a questionnaire. A total of 44 genes were identified to be linked with hearing loss.
By the age of 65, one-third of people are affected by some degree of hearing loss which can lead to social isolation and disability and has been identified as a possible risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline.
Shedding Light on Possible Future Treatments for Age-Related Hearing Loss?
The findings of this study will allow researchers to determine how the condition of hearing loss develops as we age and may identify potential targets for new therapies.
“We now know that very many genes are involved in the loss of hearing as we age,” said study co-lead author, professor Frances Williams. “This study has identified a few genes that we already know cause deafness in children, but it has also revealed lots of additional novel genes which point to new biological pathways in hearing.”
“Before our study, only five genes had been identified as predictors of age-related hearing loss, so our findings herald a nine-fold increase in independent genetic markers. We hope that our findings will help drive forward research into much-needed new therapies for the millions of people worldwide affected by hearing loss as they age.”
–Dr. Sally Dawson, co-lead author of study
The next steps in this research are to understand how each identified gene influences the auditory pathway, providing opportunities to develop new treatments.
Dr Ralph Holme, Executive Director of Research at Action on Hearing Loss, was quoted: “These findings are incredibly significant. We believe they will speed up the discovery of treatments to slow or even halt the progressive loss of hearing as we get older, something which happens to at least 70% of over-70-year-olds. This research was funded by us thanks to the generosity of our supporters and we know from people with hearing loss that being able to hear well again would completely transform their lives. The identification of these genes linked to age-related hearing loss throws open the door to many new lines of research into treatments.”
Source: King’s College, UCL