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Ear Hear. 2003 Aug;24(4):324-31.

The implications of genetic testing for deafness.

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  • 1Genetics Program, Department of Biology, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, USA.


Using modern biotechnology, it is increasingly common that genes can be identified and characterized, their protein products can be understood and tests to identify changes in these genes that lead to disease can be developed. Genetic tests are rapidly being introduced into clinical practice. Although there are many clinical benefits of genetic testing for a variety of medical conditions, there are also important practical and ethical concerns about the applications of genetic testing. The recent introduction of genetic tests for common forms of hereditary deafness (see also Rehm, 2003, in this issue) also promises many clinical benefits. Many of the same ethical concerns for genetic testing in general, also apply to genetic testing for deafness, with the added concerns brought about by the existence of the linguistic and cultural differences of the Deaf community. Sensitive genetic counseling performed by skilled geneticists is an important part of the genetic testing process to ensure that families and individuals can make informed choices regarding the use of genetic testing.

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