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Hereditary Hearing Loss and Deafness Overview

, MD, PhD, , PhD, and , MD.

Author Information

Initial Posting: ; Last Update: July 27, 2017.

Summary

This overview focuses on the clinical features and molecular genetics of common syndromic and nonsyndromic types of hereditary hearing loss.

The goals of this overview on hereditary hearing loss and deafness are the following:

Goal 1.

Describe the clinical characteristics of hereditary hearing loss and deafness.

Goal 2.

Review the causes of hereditary hearing loss and deafness.

Goal 3.

Provide an evaluation strategy to identify the genetic cause of hereditary hearing loss and deafness in a proband (when possible).

Goal 4.

Inform genetic counseling of family members of an individual with hereditary hearing loss and deafness.

Goal 5.

Review management of hereditary hearing loss and deafness.

Clinical Characteristics of Hereditary Hearing Loss and Deafness

Type

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

Onset

  • 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.

Severity of hearing loss. Hearing is measured in decibels (dB). The threshold or 0 dB mark for each frequency refers to the level at which normal young adults perceive a tone burst 50% of the time. Hearing is considered normal if an individual's thresholds are within 15 dB of normal thresholds. Severity of hearing loss is graded as shown in Table 1.

Table 1.

Severity of Hearing Loss in Decibels (dB)

SeverityHearing Threshold in Decibels
Mild26-40 dB
Moderate41-55 dB
Moderately severe56-70 dB
Severe71-90 dB
Profound90 dB

To calculate the percent hearing impairment, 25 dB is subtracted from the pure tone average of 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 3000 Hz. The result is multiplied by 1.5 to obtain an ear-specific level. Impairment is determined by weighting the better ear five times the poorer ear [JAMA 1979] (see Table 2).

Note: (1) Because conversational speech is at approximately 50-60 dB HL (hearing level), calculating functional impairment based on pure tone averages can be misleading. For example, a 45-dB hearing loss is functionally much more significant than 30% implies. (2) A different rating scale is appropriate for young children, for whom even limited hearing loss can have a great impact on language development [Northern & Downs 2002].

Table 2.

Percent Hearing Impairment

% ImpairmentPure Tone Average (dB) 1% Residual Hearing
100%91 dB0%
80%78 dB20%
60%65 dB40%
30%45 dB70%
1.

Pure tone average of 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 3000 Hz

The frequency of hearing loss is designated as:

  • Low (<500 Hz)
  • Middle (501-2000 Hz)
  • High (>2000 Hz)

Other terminology

"Hearing impairment" and "hearing loss" are often used interchangeably by healthcare professionals to refer to hearing determined by audiometry to be below threshold levels for normal hearing.

Deaf (small "d") is a colloquial term that implies hearing thresholds in the severe-to-profound range by audiometry.

Deaf culture (always a capital "D"). Members of the Deaf community in the US are deaf and use American Sign Language. As in other cultures, members are characterized by unique social and societal attributes. Members of the Deaf community (i.e., the Deaf) do NOT consider themselves to be hearing "impaired," nor do they feel that they have a hearing "loss." Rather, they consider themselves deaf. Their deafness is not considered to be a pathology or disease to be treated or cured.

"Hard of hearing" is more functional than audiologic. It is used by the Deaf to signify that a person has some usable hearing – anything from mild to severe hearing loss. In the Deaf community persons who are deaf do not use oral language, while those who are hard of hearing usually have some oral language.

Diagnosing Deafness and Hearing Loss

Physiologic tests objectively determine the functional status of the auditory system and can be performed at any age. They include the following:

  • Auditory brain stem response testing (ABR, also known as BAER, BSER) uses a stimulus (clicks) to evoke electrophysiologic responses, which originate in the eighth cranial nerve and auditory brain stem and are recorded with surface electrodes. ABR "wave V detection threshold" correlates best with hearing sensitivity in the 1500- to 4000-Hz region in neurologically normal individuals; ABR does not assess low frequency (<1500 Hz) sensitivity.
  • Auditory steady-state response testing (ASSR) is like ABR in that both are auditory evoked potentials and they are measured in similar ways. ASSR uses an objective, statistics-based mathematical detection algorithm to detect and define hearing thresholds. ASSR can be obtained using broadband or frequency-specific stimuli and can offer hearing threshold differentiation in the severe-to-profound range. It is frequently used to give frequency-specific information that ABR does not give. Test frequencies of 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz are commonly used.
  • Evoked otoacoustic emissions (EOAEs) are sounds originating within the cochlea that are measured in the external auditory canal using a probe with a microphone and transducer. EOAEs reflect primarily the activity of the outer hair cells of the cochlea across a broad frequency range and are present in ears with hearing sensitivity better than 40-50 dB HL.
  • Immittance testing (tympanometry, acoustic reflex thresholds, acoustic reflex decay) assesses the peripheral auditory system, including middle ear pressure, tympanic membrane mobility, Eustachian tube function, and mobility of the middle ear ossicles.

Audiometry subjectively determines how the individual processes auditory information (i.e., hears). Audiometry consists of behavioral testing and pure tone audiometry.

  • Behavioral testing includes behavioral observation audiometry (BOA) and visual reinforcement audiometry (VRA). BOA is used in infants from birth to age six months, is highly dependent on the skill of the tester, and is subject to error. VRA is used in children from age six months to 2.5 years and can provide a reliable, complete audiogram, but is dependent on the child's maturational age and the skill of the tester.
  • Pure-tone audiometry (air and bone conduction) involves determination of the lowest intensity at which an individual "hears" a pure tone, as a function of frequency (or pitch). Octave frequencies from 250 (close to middle C) to 8000 Hz are tested using earphones. Intensity or loudness is measured in decibels (dB), defined as the ratio between two sound pressures. 0 dB HL is the average threshold for a normal hearing adult; 120 dB HL is so loud as to cause pain. Speech reception thresholds (SRTs) and speech discrimination are assessed.
  • Air conduction audiometry presents sounds through earphones; thresholds depend on the condition of the external ear canal, middle ear, and inner ear.
  • Bone conduction audiometry presents sounds through a vibrator placed on the mastoid bone or forehead, thus bypassing the external and middle ears; thresholds depend on the condition of the inner ear.
  • Conditioned play audiometry (CPA) is used to test children from age 2.5 to five years. A complete frequency-specific audiogram for each ear can be obtained from a cooperative child.
  • Conventional audiometry is used to test individuals age five years and older; the individual indicates when the sound is heard.
  • Audioprofile refers to the recording of several audiograms on a single graph (Figure 1). These audiograms may be from one individual at different times, but more frequently they are from different members of the same family segregating deafness usually in an autosomal dominant fashion. By plotting numerous audiograms with age on the same graph, the age-related progression of hearing loss can be appreciated within these families. Often the composite picture is characteristic of specific genetic causes of autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing loss. One of the most characteristic audioprofiles is associated with DFNA6/14/38 hearing loss caused by a pathogenic variant in WFS1.
Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Audioprofile

Other

  • Congenital hearing loss can be identified by newborn hearing screening (NBHS), which has been advocated by the National Institutes of Health. NBHS is universally required by law or rule in 43 states plus the District of Columbia. In the remaining states, newborn hearing screening is offered but not required. The result is that in the United States 95% of all newborns undergo newborn hearing screening [NIH RePORT].
  • Parental concerns about possible hearing loss or observed delays in speech development require auditory screening in any child.

Differential Diagnosis of Hereditary Hearing Loss and Deafness

In children with delayed speech development, the auditory system should be assessed.

In the presence of normal audiometry associated with progressive loss of speech and temporal lobe seizures, the diagnosis of Landau-Kleffner syndrome should be considered.

Delayed speech suggesting possible hearing loss can also be seen in young children with autism spectrum disorder or specific speech and language disorders.

In developed countries approximately 80% of congenital hearing loss is due to genetic causes and the remainder to environmental (acquired) causes (Figure 2). Acquired causes should be differentiated from genetic causes to inform the evaluation and required ancillary testing (i.e., CT, MRI, and consultation with specialists) and to inform prognosis and treatment recommendations.

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Causes of prelingual hearing loss in developed countries

Acquired hearing loss in children commonly results from prenatal infections from "TORCH" organisms (i.e., toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes), or postnatal infections, particularly bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, or Streptococcus pneumoniae. Meningitis from many other organisms including Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Streptococcus agalactiae, and Enterobacter cloacae can also cause hearing loss.

In developed countries, however, the most common environmental, non-genetic cause of congenital hearing loss is congenital cytomegalovirus (cCMV) infection. Its overall birth prevalence is approximately 0.64%; 10% of this number have symptomatic CMV, which is characterized by a variable number and degree of findings including neurologic deficits (death, seizures, cerebral palsy), hepatic insufficiency, and characteristic rash. Hearing loss affects approximately 50% of symptomatic individuals with cCMV. The remaining 90% of individuals with cCMV are considered "asymptomatic"; of these up to 15% develop unilateral or bilateral hearing loss. Thus, the majority of individuals with hearing loss due to cCMV are classified as "asymptomatic."

The diagnosis of CMV hearing loss can be difficult to make, often can go unrecognized, and is characterized by variable-severity bilateral, asymmetric, or unilateral sensorineural hearing loss [Kenneson & Cannon 2007]. Testing for cCMV requires a high degree of suspicion and should be done within 21 days of birth given the ubiquity of the virus in the environment. Several states have introduced targeted testing for cCMV for newborns who fail their newborn hearing screen. Recognizing cCMV hearing loss is increasingly important given new studies that show improvement of hearing loss with antiviral therapy for persons with symptomatic CMV [Kimberlin et al 2015]. To date, however, the use of antivirals to treat hearing loss in persons with cCMV whose only manifestation is hearing loss is experimental.

Acquired hearing loss in adults, most often attributed to environmental factors, most likely reflects environmental-genetic interactions, the most frequent of which are age-related and noise-induced hearing loss. Although both of these types of hearing loss reflect complex "environmental-genetic" hearing loss, to date variants in only a few genes have been associated with these traits [Yamasoba et al 2013].

An environmental interaction pertinent to medical care is the observation that aminoglycoside-induced hearing loss is more likely in persons with specific variants in the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) (see Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, Mitochondrial).

Causes of Hereditary Hearing Loss and Deafness

Hereditary hearing loss and deafness can be regarded as syndromic or nonsyndromic (Figure 2). Syndromic hearing impairment is associated with malformations of the external ear, with malformations in other organs, or with medical problems involving other organ systems. Nonsyndromic hearing impairment has no associated visible abnormalities of the external ear or any related medical problems; however, it can be associated with abnormalities of the middle ear and/or inner ear.

Approximately 80% of prelingual deafness is genetic, most often autosomal recessive and nonsyndromic. The most common cause of severe-to-profound autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss in most populations is mutation of GJB2. The most common cause of mild-to-moderate autosomal recessive hearing loss is mutation of STRC; of note, there is ethnic-based variability [Sloan-Heggen et al 2016].

Syndromic Hearing Impairment

More than 400 genetic syndromes that include hearing loss have been described [Toriello et al 2004]. Although syndromic hearing impairment accounts for up to 30% of prelingual deafness, its relative contribution to all deafness is much smaller, commensurate with the occurrence and diagnosis of postlingual hearing loss. Syndromic hearing loss discussed here is categorized by mode of inheritance (Table 3).

Table 3.

Causes of Syndromic Hearing Impairment

MOISyndromeGene(s)Hearing ImpairmentOther Clinical FeaturesDiagnosis/Screening/Other
TypeOnsetSeverity
ADWaardenburg syndrome (WS)PAX3
MITF
EDNRB
EDN3
SOX10
WS1: SensorineuralCongenitalVariableMost common type of AD SHL
Pigmentary abnormalities of skin, hair (white forelock 1), & eyes (heterochromia iridis)
Subtype characteristics:
  • WS1. Dystopia canthorum 2
  • WS2. Absence of dystopia canthorum; many other features shared w/WS1
  • WS3. Upper-limb abnormalities
  • WS4. Hirschsprung disease
Branchiootorenal spectrum disordersEYA1
SIX1
SIX5
Conductive; sensorineural; mixedVariableVariable2nd most common type of AD SHL
BOR 3: Branchial cleft cysts or fistulae, malformations of external ear incl preauricular pits, & renal anomalies
BOS 3: Same features as BOR syndrome but w/out renal involvement
High penetrance; extremely variable expressivity
Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2)NF2Sensorineural~3rd decadeGenerally unilateral & gradual; can be bilateral & suddenHearing loss secondary to bilateral vestibular schwannomas; a rare, potentially treatable type of deafness
Risk for a variety of other tumors incl meningiomas, astrocytomas, ependymomas, & meningioangiomatosis
A retrocochlear lesion can often be diagnosed by audiologic evaluation, although definitive diagnosis requires MRI w/gadolinium contrast
Stickler syndromeCOL2A1 COL11A1 COL11A2 COL9A1 COL9A2 COL9A3Conductive; sensorineuralVariableVariableConnective tissue disorder that can include myopia, cataract, & retinal detachment;
Midfacial underdevelopment & cleft palate (either alone or as part of the Robin sequence)
Mild spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia and/or precocious arthritis
AR
Usher syndrome type IMYO7A
USH1C
CDH23
PCDH15
USH1G
CIB2
SensorineuralCongenitalSevere to profoundAbnormal vestibular function
Affected persons find traditional amplification ineffective & usually communicate manually
Because of the vestibular deficit, developmental motor milestones for sitting & walking always reached at later-than-normal ages
Most common type of AR SHL
Dual sensory impairments: affected individuals are born w/SHL, then develop RP
Affects more than 50% of the deaf-blind in the U.S.
Usher syndrome type IIADGRV1 WHRN
USH2A
Mild to severeNormal vestibular function
Hearing aids provide effective amplification for these persons; communication usually oral
Usher syndrome type III
(OMIM 276902, 614504)
CLRN1
HARS
ProgressiveProgressive deterioration of vestibular function
Pendred syndromeSLC26A4 4, 5SensorineuralCongenitalUsually (though not invariably) severe to profound2nd most common type of AR SHL
Hearing & euthyroid goiter
Deafness associated w/an abnormality of the bony labyrinth (Mondini dysplasia or dilated [enlarged] vestibular aqueduct)
Goiter not present at birth, develops in early puberty (40%) or adulthood (60%)
Mondini dysplasia or dilated vestibular aqueduct can be diagnosed by CT examination of temporal bones
Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndromeKCNQ1
KCNE1
SensorineuralCongenitalProfound3rd most common type of AR HL
Deafness & prolongation of the QT interval as detected by ECG (abnormal QTc [c=corrected] >440 msec)
Syncopal episodes; sudden death
Although a screening ECG is not highly sensitive, it may be suitable for screening deaf children. High-risk children (i.e., those w/family history positive for sudden death, SIDS, syncopal episodes, or long QT syndrome) should have a thorough cardiac evaluation.
Biotinidase deficiencyBTDSensorineuralVariableVariableIf not recognized & corrected by daily addition of biotin to the diet, affected persons develop neurologic features (e.g., seizures, hypertonia, developmental delay, ataxia) & visual problems
Some degree of HL is present in ≥75% of children who become symptomatic
Cutaneous features (e.g., skin rash, alopecia, conjunctivitis)
Neurologic & cutaneous manifestations resolve w/biotin treatment; hearing loss & optic atrophy are usually irreversible
When a child presents w/episodic or progressive ataxia & progressive sensorineural deafness ± neurologic or cutaneous symptoms, consider biotinidase deficiency.
To prevent metabolic coma, initiate diet & treatment ASAP.
Refsum diseasePHYH
PEX7
SensorineuralVariableSevere; progressiveAnosmia & early-onset retinitis pigmentosa – both universal findings w/variable combinations of neuropathy, deafness, ataxia, & ichthyosisAlthough it is extremely rare, consider Refsum disease in evaluation of a deaf person as it can be treated w/dietary modification & plasmapharesis.
Diagnosis is established by determining serum concentration of phytanic acid 6.
Alport syndrome 7COL4A5
COL4A3 7
COL4A4 7
SensorineuralTypically after age 10 yearsVarying severity ProgressiveRenal, cochlear, ocular involvement
In the absence of treatment, renal disease progresses from microscopic hematuria to proteinuria, progressive renal insufficiency, ESRD
XL
Deafness-dystonia-optic neuronopathy syndrome
(Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome)
TIMM8ASensorineuralEarly childhoodProgressive; pre- or postlingualVisual disability, dystonia, fractures, intellectual disability

SHL = syndromic hearing loss

ESRD = end-stage renal disease

RP = retinitis pigmentosa

1.

Because affected persons may dye their hair, the presence of a white forelock should be specifically sought in the history and physical examination.

2.

Dystopia canthorum: lateral displacement of the inner canthus of the eye

3.

Branchiootorenal spectrum disorders comprise branchiootorenal (BOR) syndrome and branchiootic syndrome (BOS).

4.

Digenic inheritance, in which an affected individual has double heterozygosity for a pathogenic variant in SLC26A4 and a pathogenic variant in FOXI1 [Yang et al 2007] or double heterozygosity for a pathogenic variant in SLC26A4 and a pathogenic variant in KCNJ10, has also been observed in Pendred syndrome.

5.

Mutation of SLC26A4 is also associated with nonsyndromic hearing loss (DFNB4).

6.
7.

X-linked inheritance accounts for approximately 85% of Alport syndrome; autosomal recessive inheritance accounts for approximately 15% of cases; autosomal dominant inheritance has also been reported on occasion.

Mitochondrial Syndromic Hearing Impairment

Mitochondrial DNA pathogenic variants have been implicated in a variety of diseases ranging from rare neuromuscular syndromes such as Kearns-Sayre syndrome (see Mitochondrial DNA Deletion Syndromes), MELAS, MERRF, and NARP (see Mitochondrial Disorders Overview), to common conditions such as diabetes mellitus, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease. One pathogenic variant, the 3243 A-to-G transition in MTTL1, has been found in 2%-6% of individuals with diabetes mellitus in Japan; 61% of persons with diabetes mellitus and this pathogenic variant have hearing loss. The hearing loss is sensorineural and develops only after the onset of the diabetes mellitus. The same pathogenic variant is associated with MELAS, raising questions of penetrance and tissue specificity – issues further confounded by heteroplasmy.

Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment

Nomenclature. For historical reasons, nonsyndromic hearing impairment may be referred to by the gene involved (e.g., OTOF-related deafness) or by the genetic locus (e.g., DFNB9). Nonsyndromic deafness loci are designated DFN (for DeaFNess) and further classified by mode of inheritance (DFNA: autosomal dominant; DFNB: autosomal recessive; DFNX: X-linked) and a number indicating the order of gene mapping and/or discovery).

Inheritance. The inheritance pattern among the disorders with prelingual nonsyndromic hearing loss is 80% autosomal recessive, 20% autosomal dominant, and 1%-1.5% X-linked, mitochondrial or other (Figure 2) [Smith et al 2005]. Although similar data are not available for the disorders with postlingual nonsyndromic hearing impairment, most reported families demonstrate autosomal dominant inheritance.

Genetic heterogeneity. Nonsyndromic hereditary hearing loss is characterized by extreme genetic heterogeneity: to date, more than 6,000 causative variants have been identified in more than 110 genes. In the largest study to date in which a multigene panel was used for comprehensive genetic testing, more than 40 causative genes were identified among the 440 individuals in whom a genetic diagnosis was established [Sloan-Heggen et al 2016]. This extreme genetic heterogeneity underscores the importance of use of multigene sequencing panels for genetic diagnosis (see Evaluation Strategy).

Autosomal Dominant Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment

More than 25 genes have been associated with autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing loss. The genes implicated in autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing impairment and their clinical manifestations are summarized in Table 4. Note that the audioprofile can be distinctive and therefore guide genotype-phenotype correlations [Taylor et al 2013] (see Evaluation Strategy).

Most autosomal dominant loci cause postlingual hearing impairment.

  • Exceptions in which hearing loss is prelingual include GJB2 and GJB6 (DFNA3), TECTA (DFNA8/12), and DFNA19.
  • WFS1 (DFNA6/14/38) is noteworthy as the hearing loss primarily affects the low frequencies.

Table 4.

Autosomal Dominant Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment: Genes and their Clinical Manifestations

GeneLocusOnset/DecadeAudioprofile
ACTG1DFNA20/26PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
CCDC50DFNA440PostlingualLow to mild frequencies; progressive
CD164DFNA66PostlingualFlat or mid-frequency; progressive
CEACAM16DFNA4BPostlingualFlat; progressive
COCHDFNA9Postlingual/2ndHigh frequency; progressive
COL11A2DFNA13Postlingual/2ndMid-frequency loss
GSDMEDFNA5Postlingual/1stHigh frequency; progressive
DIAPH1DFNA1Postlingual/1stLow frequency; progressive
DMXL2-Postlingual/2ndFlat; progressive
DSPPDFNA39PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
EYA4DFNA10Postlingual/3rd, 4thFlat/gently downsloping
GJB2 1DFNA3PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
GJB3DFNA2BPostlingual/4thHigh frequency; progressive
GJB6 1DFNA3PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
GRHL2DFNA28PostlingualFlat/gently downsloping
HOMER2DFNA68Postlingual/1stHigh frequency; progressive
KCNQ4DFNA2Postlingual/2ndHigh frequency; progressive
MIR96DFNA50Postlingual/2ndFlat; progressive
MCM2DFNA70PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
MYH14DFNA4PostlingualFlat/gently downsloping
MYH9DFNA17PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
MYO1ADFNA48PostlingualProgressive
MYO6DFNA22PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
MYO7A 2DFNA11Postlingual/1stFlat/gently downsloping
OSBPL2DFNA67PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
P2RX2DFNA41PostlingualFlat; progressive
POU4F3DFNA15PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
SIX1DFNA23PrelingualDownsloping
SLC17A8DFNA25Postlingual/2nd-6thHigh frequency; progressive
TBC1D24DFNA65PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
TECTA 3, 4DFNA8/12PrelingualMid-frequency loss
TJP2 & FAM189A2DFNA51Postlingual/4thHigh frequency; progressive
TMC1DFNA36PostlingualFlat/gently downsloping
WFS1 5DFNA6/14/38PrelingualLow frequency; progressive

See Deafness, Autosomal Dominant: Phenotypic Series to view genes associated with this phenotype in OMIM.

1.

GJB2 and GJB6 pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNB1 (autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing impairment).

2.

MYO7A pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNB2 (autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing impairment) and Usher syndrome 1B.

3.

TECTA pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNB21 (autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing impairment).

4.

In DFNA8/12, the pathogenic variants in TECTA are missense variants, with the audioprofile dependent on the location of the variant. Missense variants in the ZP domain cause stable or progressive hearing loss involving the mid frequencies, while missense variants in the ZA domain result in progressive hearing loss in the high frequencies.

5.

WFS1 pathogenic variants are also associated with Wolfram syndrome (see WFS1-Related Disorders).

Autosomal Recessive Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment

Large studies have underscored the extreme genetic heterogeneity of autosomal recessive nonsyndromic deafness. The 70 genes implicated in autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing impairment and their clinical manifestations are summarized in Table 5.

While it is true that in some world populations, up to 50% of persons with severe-to-profound autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss have pathogenic variants in GJB2 (see DFNB1), recent studies have shown that the contribution of pathogenic variants in GJB2 to deafness varies considerably by ethnicity [Sloan-Heggen et al 2016]. For example, among individuals of African descent, pathogenic variants in GJB2 are very rare [Rudman et al 2017].

Table 5.

Autosomal Recessive Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment: Genes and their Clinical Manifestations

GeneLocusOnsetType
ADCY1DFNB44PrelingualMild to moderate; stable
BDP1DFNB49PostlingualHigh frequency; stable
BSNDDFNB73PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
CABP2DFNB93PrelingualModerate to severe; stable
CDC14ADFNB105PrelingualSevere to profound
CDH23 1DFNB12PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
CIB2DFNB48PrelingualSevere to profound
CLDN14DFNB29PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
CLIC5DFNB103PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
COL11A2DFNB53PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
DCDC2DFNB66PrelingualSevere to profound
PJVKDFNB59PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
ELMOD3DFNB88PrelingualSevere to profound; mixed
EPS8DFNB102PrelingualSevere to profound
EPS8L2-PostlingualHigh frequency; progressive
ESPNDFNB36Prelingual
ESRRBDFNB35UnknownSevere to profound
GIPC3 2DFNB15/72/95PrelingualSevere to profound
GJB2 3DFNB1Prelingual 4Usually stable
GJB6 3DFNB1Prelingual 4Usually stable
GPSM2DFNB32/82PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
GRXCR1DFNB25PrelingualModerate to profound; progressive
GRXCR2DFNB101PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
HGFDFNB39PrelingualSevere to profound; downsloping
ILDR1DFNB42PrelingualModerate to severe
KARSDFNB89PrelingualModerate to severe; stable
LHFPL5DFNB67PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
LOXHD1DFNB77PostlingualModerate to profound; progressive
LRTOMTDFNB63PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
MARVELD2DFNB49PrelingualModerate to profound; stable
METDFNB97PrelingualSevere to profound
MSRB3DFNB74PrelingualSevere to profound
MYO15ADFNB3PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
MYO3ADFNB30PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
MYO6DFNB37Prelingual
MYO7A 5DFNB2Prelingual, postlingualUnspecified
NARS2 6DFNB94PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
OTOGDFNB18BPrelingualMild to moderate; stable
OTOGLDFNB84PrelingualHigh frequency; stable
OTOADFNB22PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
OTOFDFNB9PrelingualUsually severe to profound; stable
PCDH15DFNB23PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
PNPT1DFNB70PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
PTPRQDFNB84PrelingualModerate to profound; progressive
RDXDFNB24PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
RIPOR2DFNB104PrelingualSevere to profound
ROR1 7-PrelingualSevere to profound
S1PR2DFNB68PrelingualSevere to profound
SERPINB6DFNB91PrelingualModerate to severe
SLC22A4DFNB60PrelingualSevere to profound
SLC26A4 8DFNB4Prelingual, postlingualStable; progressive
SLC26A5DFNB61PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
STRCDFNB16PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
SYNE4DFNB76PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
TECTA 9, 10DFNB21PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
TBC1D24DFNB86PrelingualSevere to profound
TMC1DFNB7/11PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
TMEM132EDFNB99PrelingualSevere to profound
TMIEDFNB6PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
TMPRSS3DFNB8/10Postlingual 11, prelingualProgressive; stable
TPRNDFNB79PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
TRIOBPDFNB28PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
TSPEARDFNB98PrelingualSevere to profound
USH1C 12DFNB18PrelingualSevere to profound; stable
WBP2-PrelingualHigh frequency; progressive
WHRNDFNB31Prelingual

See Deafness, Autosomal Recessive: Phenotypic Series to view genes associated with this phenotype in OMIM.

1.

CDH23 pathogenic variants are also associated with Usher syndrome type 1D.

2.

GIPC3 pathogenic variants are associated with audiogenic seizures.

3.

GJB2 and GJB6 pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNA3 (autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing impairment).

4.

Prelingual deafness also includes congenital deafness.

5.

MYO7A pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNA11 (autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing impairment) and Usher syndrome 1B.

6.

NARS2 pathogenic variants also cause Leigh syndrome.

7.

ROR1 pathogenic variants cause recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss associated with common cavity inner ear malformations and auditory neuropathy.

8.

SLC26A4 pathogenic variants are also associated with Pendred syndrome.

9.

TECTA pathogenic variants are also associated with DFNA8/12 (autosomal dominant nonsyndromic hearing impairment).

10.

In DFNB21, the pathogenic variants in TECTA result in premature protein truncation and act like null alleles. Examples include frameshift variants, nonsense variants, and deletions. In all cases, the hearing loss is prelingual, symmetric, and moderate to severe in degree.

11.

The onset of DFNB8 hearing loss is postlingual (age 10-12 years), while the onset of DFNB10 hearing loss is prelingual (congenital). This phenotypic difference reflects a genotypic difference: the DFNB8-causing variant is a splice site variant, suggesting that inefficient splicing is associated with a reduced amount of normal protein that is sufficient to prevent prelingual deafness but not sufficient to prevent eventual hearing loss.

12.

USH1C pathogenic variants are also associated with Usher syndrome type 1C.

X-Linked Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment

The genes implicated in X-linked nonsyndromic hearing impairment and their clinical manifestations are summarized in Table 6.

X-linked nonsyndromic hearing loss can be either pre- or postlingual; one disorder, DFNX3, has mixed hearing loss.

Table 6.

X-linked Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment: Genes and their Clinical Manifestations

GeneLocusOnsetType / DegreeFrequencies
PRPS1DFNX1PostlingualProgressive sensorineural / severe to profoundAll
POU3F4DFNX2PrelingualProgressive, mixed / variable, but progresses to profoundAll
SMPXDFNX4PostlingualProgressive sensorineural / mild to profoundAll
AIFM1DFNX5PrelingualProgressive auditory neuropathyLow frequency
COL4A6DFNX6PrelingualProgressive sensorineural / severe to profoundAll

Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, Mitochondrial

The majority of pathogenic variants in mitochondrial genes cause a broad spectrum of maternally inherited multisystem disorders; however, variants in a subset of genes, mainly MT-RNR1 and MT-TS1, cause nonsyndromic hearing loss by a currently unknown mechanism [Fischel-Ghodsian 1998] (see Table 7 and Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, Mitochondrial).

MT-RNR1 encodes for the 12S ribosomal RNA. One variant in this gene, 1555G>A, is a frequent cause of maternally inherited nonsyndromic hearing loss. In some individuals with the 1555G>A variant, the hearing loss is induced by the administration of appropriate doses of aminoglycosides; however, phenotypic variation is great, consistent with the effect of modifier genes [Kokotas et al 2007].

MT-TS1 encodes for the transfer RNASer(UCN). Two families with heteroplasmy for an A-to-G transition at nt7445 of this gene have been identified; however, penetrance of hearing loss was low, and it has been suggested that MT-TS1 pathogenic variants on their own play an insignificant role in hearing loss.

MT-CO1 encodes cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1. Six individuals with severe-to-profound deafness showed cosegregation of a homoplasmic G-to-A transition at nt7444 of MT-CO1 and the 1555A>G pathogenic variant in MT-RNR1 [Pandya et al 1999]. Five of the six individuals showed maternal inheritance and two had a previous history of aminoglycoside use. As opposed to the variable hearing loss associated with MT-RNR1 1555A>G, all individuals with this double variant showed severe-to-profound impairment and penetrance was complete.

Table 7.

Mitochondrial Nonsyndromic Hearing Impairment: Genes and their Clinical Manifestations

GenePathogenic VariantSeverityPenetrance
MT-RNR1961 different variantsVariableHighly variable, aminoglycoside induced
1494C>T
1555A>G
MT-TS17445A>GHighly variable
7472insC
7510T>C
7511T
MT-CO17444G>ASevere to profoundComplete, aminoglycoside associated; associated with MT-RNR1 1555A>G

Evaluation Strategy

Recent guidelines have underscored the importance of genetic testing in the evaluation of patients with hearing loss. See Alford et al [2014] (full text), Liming et al [2016] (full text), and Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Diagnostic algorithm for presumed hereditary nonsyndromic sensorineural hearing loss

Because molecular genetic testing is the single type of test with the highest diagnostic rate, it should be offered first in evaluation of individuals with presumed hereditary sensorineural hearing loss and deafness unless past medical history, physical examination, and/or audiometric testing indicates a specific syndromic form of hearing loss (Figure 3 and Table 3).

Initial evaluation should always include the following:

  • Family history. Effort should be made to obtain a three-generation family history with attention to other relatives with hearing loss and associated findings. Documentation of relevant findings in relatives can be accomplished either through direct examination of those individuals or through review of their medical records, including audiograms, otologic examinations, and molecular genetic testing.
  • Clinical examination. All persons with hearing loss of unknown cause should be evaluated for features associated with syndromic deafness (see Table 3). Because variable expressivity is common among autosomal dominant syndromes with deafness, the correct diagnosis may depend on molecular genetic testing.
  • Audiometric testing. Hearing status can be determined at any age (see Diagnosing Deafness and Hearing Loss).
    • Individuals with progressive hearing loss should be evaluated for Alport syndrome, Pendred syndrome, and Stickler syndrome. In addition to genetic testing, temporal bone-computed tomography should be considered to evaluate for enlarged vestibular aqueduct.
    • Sudden or rapidly progressive hearing loss can be seen with temporal bone anomalies (as in Pendred syndrome and BOR syndrome), neoplasms (associated with NF2), and immunologic-related deafness, as well as trauma, infections (syphilis, Lyme disease), and metabolic, neurologic, or circulatory disturbances.

Subsequent evaluation should be directed based on findings from above. In cases of apparent nonsyndromic sensorineural hearing loss, genetic testing should be obtained prior to other (ancillary) testing (Figure 3).

Molecular genetic testing. Genes known to cause common syndromes with hereditary hearing loss and deafness are included in Table 3. Because variable expressivity is common among autosomal dominant syndromes with deafness, the correct diagnosis may depend on molecular genetic testing.

The diagnosis of nonsyndromic hereditary hearing loss and deafness is established in a proband by identification of pathogenic variant(s) in a given gene (see Tables 4, 5, 6, and 7).

Molecular genetic testing for hereditary hearing loss and deafness historically relied on single-gene testing; however, this testing approach has largely been supplanted by multigene panels, which are comprehensive (i.e., include all genes known to cause deafness or all genes known to cause either autosomal recessive or autosomal dominant hearing loss and deafness). Multigene testing panels have greatly improved the diagnostic rate regardless of presumed inheritance or ethnicity [Shearer & Smith 2015]. In select instances, exome sequencing has been used in a diagnostic setting and can provide a means for comprehensive genetic testing for hereditary hearing loss and deafness, although small copy number variants can be easily missed [Zazo Seco et al 2017].

A multigene hearing loss and deafness panel that includes most of the genes listed in Tables 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 is recommended. Note: (1) The genes included in the panel and the diagnostic sensitivity of the testing used for each gene vary by laboratory and over time. (2) Some multigene panels may include genes not associated with the condition discussed in this GeneReview; thus, clinicians need to determine which multigene panel is most likely to identify the genetic cause of the condition at the most reasonable cost while limiting identification of variants of uncertain significance and pathogenic variants in genes that do not explain the underlying phenotype. (3) In some laboratories, panel options may include a custom laboratory-designed panel and/or custom phenotype-focused exome analysis that includes genes specified by the clinician. (4) Methods used in a panel may include sequence analysis, deletion/duplication analysis, and/or other non-sequencing-based tests. In the evaluation of hearing loss/deafness, a multigene panel that includes the identification of deletions and duplications is mandatory as copy number variants are a common cause of hereditary nonsyndromic hearing loss [Shearer et al 2014]. For an introduction to multigene panels click here. More detailed information for clinicians ordering genetic tests can be found here.

Individuals with the distinctive findings of syndromic hearing loss (Table 3) may be diagnosed using gene-targeted testing. Of note, many multigene panels for hereditary hearing loss and deafness now include the most common causes of syndromic hearing loss, including those that masquerade as nonsyndromic hearing loss until secondary signs and symptoms present (e.g., Usher syndrome [blindness]; Pendred syndrome [thyroid goiter]).

Temporal bone CT or MRI. A dedicated thin cut CT or MRI of the temporal bones is useful for detecting malformations of the inner ear (i.e., Mondini deformity, Michel aplasia, enlarged/dilated vestibular aqueduct, dilation of the internal auditory canal), which should be considered in persons with progressive hearing loss.

Ancillary testing. Further testing including cardiac, renal, or ophthalmologic evaluation should not be routinely ordered unless there are concerning clinical findings or the results of genetic testing raise concerns about other organ system involvement.

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is the process of providing individuals and families with information on the nature, inheritance, and implications of genetic disorders to help them make informed medical and personal decisions. The following section deals with genetic risk assessment and the use of family history and genetic testing to clarify genetic status for family members. This section is not meant to address all personal, cultural, or ethical issues that individuals may face or to substitute for consultation with a genetics professional. —ED.

Mode of Inheritance

Hereditary hearing loss may be transmitted in an autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, or X-linked manner or by maternal inheritance.

(See Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, Mitochondrial for genetic counseling information about maternal inheritance.)

Risk to Family Members – Autosomal Dominant Hereditary Hearing Loss

Parents of a proband

Sibs of a proband

  • The risk to sibs depends on the genetic status of a proband's parents.
  • If one of the proband's parents has a pathogenic variant, the risk to the sibs of inheriting the variant is 50%.
  • Depending on the specific diagnosis, clinical severity and phenotype may differ between individuals with the same variant; thus, age of onset and/or progression may not be predictable.

Offspring of a proband

  • Individuals with autosomal dominant hereditary hearing loss have a 50% chance of transmitting the pathogenic variant to each child.
  • Depending on the specific diagnosis, clinical severity and phenotype may differ between individuals with the same variant; thus, age of onset and/or progression may not be predictable.

Other family members. The risk to other family members depends on the status of the proband's parents: if a parent has the pathogenic variant, his or her family members may be at risk.

Considerations in families with an apparent de novo pathogenic variant. When neither parent of a proband with an autosomal dominant condition has the causative variant identified in the proband or clinical evidence of the disorder, the variant is likely de novo. However, non-medical explanations including alternate paternity or maternity (e.g., with assisted reproduction) and undisclosed adoption could also be explored.

Risk to Family Members – Autosomal Recessive Hereditary Hearing Loss

Parents of a proband

  • The parents of an individual diagnosed as having autosomal recessive hereditary hearing loss are obligate heterozygotes (i.e., carriers a single copy of a pathogenic variant).
  • Heterozygotes are asymptomatic.

Sibs of a proband

  • At conception, each sib has a 25% chance of being deaf, a 50% chance of having normal hearing and being a carrier, and a 25% chance of having normal hearing and not being a carrier.
  • Heterozygotes are asymptomatic.
  • Depending on the specific diagnosis, clinical severity and phenotype may differ between individuals with the same variants; thus, age of onset and/or progression of hearing loss may not be predictable. (Note: One exception is GJB2-related hearing loss; studies have shown that it is possible to predict phenotype based on GJB2 genotype (see Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, DFNB1).

Offspring of a proband. All offspring are obligate carriers.

Other family members. The sibs of obligate heterozygotes have a 50% chance of being heterozygotes.

Heterozygote (carrier) detection. Carrier testing for at-risk relatives requires prior identification of the pathogenic variants in the family.

Risk to Family Members – X-Linked Hereditary Hearing Loss

Parents of a proband

Sibs of a proband

  • Male proband. The risk to sibs depends on the genetic status of the mother: if the mother of the proband has a pathogenic variant, the chance of transmitting it in each pregnancy is 50%. Males who inherit the variant will be deaf; females who inherit the variant will be heterozygotes (carriers) and are likely to have normal hearing.
  • Female proband. The risk to sibs depends on the genetic status of the parents:
    • If the mother of the proband has a pathogenic variant, the chance of transmitting it in each pregnancy is 50%. Males who inherit the variant will be deaf; females who inherit the variant will be heterozygotes (carriers) and are likely to have normal hearing.
    • If the father of the proband has a pathogenic variant, he will transmit it to all his daughters and none of his sons.
  • If the proband represents a simplex case (i.e., a single occurrence in a family) and if the pathogenic variant cannot be detected in the leukocyte DNA of either parent, the risk to sibs is slightly greater than that of the general population (though still <1%) because of the theoretic possibility of parental germline mosaicism.
  • Depending on the specific syndrome, clinical severity and phenotype may differ between individuals with the same pathogenic variant; thus, age of onset and/or progression may not be predictable.

Offspring of a proband

Other family members. The proband's maternal aunts may be at risk of being carriers and the aunt's offspring, depending on their gender, may be at risk of being carriers or of being deaf.

Heterozygote (carrier) detection. Carrier testing for at-risk relatives requires prior identification of the pathogenic variant in the family.

Risk to Family Members – Empiric Risks

If a specific diagnosis cannot be established (and/or the mode of inheritance cannot be established in a person with a positive family history of deafness or hearing loss), the following empiric figures can be used.

The subsequent offspring of a hearing couple with one deaf child and an otherwise negative family history of deafness have an 18% empiric probability of deafness in future children [Green et al 1999].

The offspring of a deaf person and a hearing person have a 10% empiric risk of deafness [Green et al 1999].

The child of a non-consanguineous deaf couple in whom autosomal dominant deafness has been excluded has an approximately 15% empiric risk for deafness [Green et al 1999].

  • If both parents have GJB2-related deafness, the risk to their offspring is 100%.
  • If the couple has autosomal recessive deafness known to be caused by deafness-causing variants at two different loci, the chance of deafness in their offspring is lower than that of the general population.

The child of a hearing sib of a deaf proband (presumed to have autosomal recessive nonsyndromic deafness) and a deaf person has a 1/200 (0.5%) empiric risk for deafness, or five times the general population risk.

GJB2 and GJB6 molecular genetic testing can clarify if the risks are higher. If the hearing sib is a carrier of a GJB2 deafness-causing variant or a GJB6 deafness-causing variant and his/her reproductive partner has DFNB1 deafness, the chance of having a deaf child is 50%.

Related Genetic Counseling Issues

See Management, Evaluation of Relatives at Risk for information on evaluating at-risk relatives for the purpose of early diagnosis and treatment.

The following points are noteworthy:

  • Communication with individuals who are members of the Deaf community and who sign requires the services of a skilled interpreter.
  • Members of the Deaf community may view deafness as a distinguishing characteristic and not as a handicap, impairment, or medical condition requiring a "treatment" or "cure," or to be "prevented."
  • Many deaf people are interested in obtaining information about the cause of their own deafness, including information on medical, educational, and social services, rather than information about prevention, reproduction, or family planning. It is, therefore, important to ascertain and address the questions and concerns of the family/individual.
  • The use of certain terms is preferred: probability or chance vs risk; deaf and hard-of-hearing vs hearing impaired. Terms such as "abnormal" should be avoided.

Family planning

  • The optimal time for determination of genetic status and discussion of the availability of prenatal testing is before pregnancy.
  • It is appropriate to offer genetic counseling (including discussion of the probability of deafness in offspring and reproductive options) to young adults who are deaf.

DNA banking is the storage of DNA (typically extracted from white blood cells) for possible future use. Because it is likely that testing methodology and our understanding of genes, allelic variants, and hereditary hearing loss will improve in the future, consideration should be given to banking DNA of affected individuals.

Prenatal Testing and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Once the pathogenic variant(s) have been identified in the family, prenatal diagnosis for a pregnancy at increased risk and preimplantation genetic diagnosis for deafness or hearing loss are possible.

Differences in perspective may exist among medical professionals and within families regarding the use of prenatal testing, particularly if the testing is being considered for the purpose of pregnancy termination rather than early diagnosis. While most centers would consider decisions regarding prenatal testing to be the choice of the parents, discussion of these issues is appropriate.

Resources

GeneReviews staff has selected the following disease-specific and/or umbrella support organizations and/or registries for the benefit of individuals with this disorder and their families. GeneReviews is not responsible for the information provided by other organizations. For information on selection criteria, click here.

  • American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC)
    800 Florida Avenue Northeast
    Suite 2047
    Washington DC 20002-3695
    Phone: 800-942-2732 (Toll-free Parent Hotline); 866-895-4206 (toll free voice/TTY)
    Fax: 410-795-0965
    Email: info@deafchildren.org; asdc@deafchildren.org
  • My46 Trait Profile
  • National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
    8630 Fenton Street
    Suite 820
    Silver Spring MD 20910
    Phone: 301-587-1788; 301-587-1789 (TTY)
    Fax: 301-587-1791
    Email: nad.info@nad.org
  • National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference
  • NCBI Genes and Disease
  • Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    3417 Volta Place Northwest
    Washington DC 20007
    Phone: 866-337-5220 (toll-free); 202-337-5220; 202-337-5221 (TTY)
    Fax: 202-337-8314
    Email: info@agbell.org
  • BabyHearing.org
    This site, developed with support from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, provides information about newborn hearing screening and hearing loss.

Management

Treatment of Manifestations

Ideally, the team evaluating and treating the deaf individual should consist of an otolaryngologist with expertise in the management of early childhood otologic disorders, an audiologist experienced in the assessment of hearing loss in children, a clinical geneticist, and a pediatrician. The expertise of an educator of the Deaf, a neurologist, and a pediatric ophthalmologist may also be required.

An important part of the evaluation is determining the appropriate habilitation option. Possibilities include hearing aids, vibrotactile devices, and cochlear implantation. Cochlear implantation can be considered in children older than age 12 months with severe-to-profound hearing loss.

The ultimate goal in the evaluation and treatment of a child with hereditary hearing loss and deafness is mainstream schooling. Research shows that diagnosis by age three months and habilitation by six months makes this goal possible for children with mild-moderate hearing loss. Cochlear implantation in children with severe-to-profound deafness who are part of mainstream education leads to social functioning and educational attainment that is indistinguishable from normal-hearing peers [Loy et al 2010, Langereis & Vermeulen 2015].

Recent research has focused on cochlear implant performance based on the gene involved. Due to the genetic heterogeneity of deafness, large sample sizes are difficult to obtain for performance on a per-gene basis. However, the data are clear that individuals with GJB2-related hearing loss (see Nonsyndromic Hearing Loss and Deafness, DFNB1) have excellent cochlear implant outcomes that are significantly better than those of individuals with environmental causes of deafness [Yoshida et al 2013, Abdurehim et al 2017].

In adults, cochlear implant performance may be compromised when the genetic defect affects the auditory nerve itself; however, this hypothesis requires further research [Shearer et al 2017].

DFNX3 is characterized by a mixed conductive-sensorineural hearing loss, the conductive component of which is caused by stapedial fixation. In contrast to other types of conductive hearing loss, surgical correction of DFNX3-related hearing loss can compromise hearing. An abnormal communication between the cerebrospinal fluid and perilymph can lead to fluid leakage ("perilymphatic gusher") at surgery and complete loss of hearing upon fenestration or removal of the stapes footplate.

Prevention of Primary Manifestations

Whenever a child presents with progressive sensorineural hearing loss and progressive ataxia, with or without neurologic or cutaneous symptoms, biotinidase deficiency should be considered, with initiation of treatment as early as possible to prevent irreversible sequelae.

Prevention of Secondary Complications

Regardless of its etiology, uncorrected hearing loss has consistent sequelae. Auditory deprivation through age two years is associated with poor reading performance, poor communication skills, and poor speech production. Educational intervention is insufficient to completely remediate these deficiencies. In contrast, early auditory intervention is effective – whether through amplification, otologic surgery, or cochlear implantation [Smith et al 2005].

Although decreased cognitive skills and performance in mathematics and reading are associated with deafness, examination of persons with hereditary hearing loss has shown that these deficiencies are not intrinsically linked to the cause of the deafness. For example, assessment of cognitive skills in individuals with GJB2-related hearing loss reveals a normal Hiskey IQ and normal reading performance after cochlear implantation [Bauer et al 2003]. Thus, early identification and timely intervention is essential for optimal cognitive development in children with prelingual deafness.

Surveillance

Sequential audiologic examinations are essential to:

  • Document the stability or progression of the hearing loss;
  • Identify and treat superimposed hearing losses, such as middle ear effusion.

In a person with autosomal recessive nonsyndromic hearing loss caused by pathogenic variants in SLC26A4, the hearing loss can progress and annual audiometric testing may be warranted. Additionally, thyroid function should be followed if the diagnosis is consistent with Pendred syndrome.

Agents/Circumstances to Avoid

Noise exposure is a well-recognized environmental cause of hearing loss. Since this risk can be minimized by avoidance, persons with documented hearing loss should be counseled appropriately.

Evaluation of Relatives at Risk

At a minimum, all children at risk for hereditary deafness and hearing loss should receive screening audiometry.

See Genetic Counseling for issues related to testing of at-risk relatives for genetic counseling purposes.

References

Published Guidelines / Consensus Statements

  • Alford RL, Arnos KS, Fox M, Lin JW, Palmer CG, Pandya A, Rehm HL, Robin NH, Scott DA, Yoshinaga-Itano C; ACMG Working Group on Update of Genetics Evaluation Guidelines for the Etiologic Diagnosis of Congenital Hearing Loss; Professional Practice and Guidelines Committee. American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics guideline for the clinical evaluation and etiologic diagnosis of hearing loss. Available online. 2014. Accessed 2-13-18. [PubMed: 24651602]

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  • Yang T, Vidarsson H, Rodrigo-Blomqvist S, Rosengren SS, Enerback S, Smith RJ. Transcriptional control of SLC26A4 is involved in Pendred syndrome and nonsyndromic enlargement of vestibular aqueduct (DFNB4). Am J Hum Genet. 2007;80:1055–63. [PMC free article: PMC1867094] [PubMed: 17503324]
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Chapter Notes

Author History

Glenn Edward Green, MD; University of Arizona (1999-2005)
Michael S Hildebrand, PhD (2010-present)
A Eliot Shearer (2012-present)
Richard JH Smith, MD (1999-present)
Guy Van Camp, PhD; University of Antwerp (1999-2017)

Revision History

  • 27 July 2017 (bp) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 9 January 2014 (rjhs) Revision: DFNA41 and DFNB76 added
  • 3 January 2013 (cd) Revision: clinical testing available for DFNB79 and DFNX4 (DFN6)
  • 5 January 2012 (cd) Revision: clinical testing for mutations in MT-CO1 associated with hearing loss and multigene hearing loss/deafness panels now listed in the GeneTests™ Laboratory Directory
  • 14 October 2010 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 2 December 2008 (rjs) Revision: DFNB23 added
  • 28 October 2008 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 30 January 2007 (rjs) Revision: clinical testing and prenatal diagnosis available for DFNB9
  • 4 December 2006 (rjs) Revision: clinical testing available for DFNB21 and DFNA8/12
  • 22 August 2006 (rjs) Revision: to incorporate concerns of reader regarding hearing impairment scales
  • 30 December 2005 (me) Comprehensive update posted to live Web site
  • 18 February 2005 (rjs) Revision: clinical availability of testing, KCNQ4-related DFNA2
  • 15 July 2004 (rjs) Revision: use of an interpreter
  • 18 December 2003 (cd,rjs) Revision: change in test availability
  • 3 November 2003 (me) Comprehensive update posted to live Web site
  • 13 January 2003 (cd) Revision: test availability
  • 24 April 2001 (me) Comprehensive update posted to live Web site
  • 14 February 1999 (pb) Overview posted to live Web site
  • 30 October 1998 (rjs) Original overview submission [Supported in part by grants 1RO1DC02842 and 1RO1DC03544 (RJHS) and Belgian National Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (GVC).]
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