New hope for ageing population? Scientists identified 44 genes linked to age-related hearing loss – Innovita Research

New hope for ageing population? Scientists identified 44 genes linked to age-related hearing loss

As you might have noticed by talking to your grandma, people start losing their hearing as they age. One third of 65 year olds report have impaired hearing. Worse still, we don’t know why that happens, although 5 genes have been identified. Now scientists from UCL and King’s College London conducted a large study and identified 44 genes linked to age-related hearing loss.

Scientists identified 44 genes linked to age-related hearing loss. Image credit: Jonas Bergsten via Wikimedia

Although one third of people at 65 or older report having some degree of hearing loss, it just means that two thirds do not have this issue. Scientists have always been fascinated by these kind of differences in ageing that seem to be slightly strange. If hearing loss is actually related to mechanical wearout of our hearing systems, why not everyone is suffering from age-related hearing loss later in life? Scientists decided to look for an answer by looking at 250,000 people.

Participants of this study, aged between 40 and 69 years, had to answer a questionnaire about the health of their hearing systems. Then researchers analysed their genetic data, looking for specific differences between those, who reported having hearing problems and those who said they are hearing fine. This allowed identifying 44 genes, which could be linked to age-related hearing loss.

Although some studies confirm that only one third of 65 year olds suffer from hearing loss, this number climbs rapidly with age. Some studies say that as much as 70 % of 70 year old people suffer from some degree of hearing impairment. It leads to social isolation and significantly reduced quality of life. Hearing aid is pretty much the only option, as far as it comes to improving the function, but no actual treatment is available. But it might be coming now that scientists know more about genetic causes of age-related hearing loss.

Interestingly, some of the same genes may be involved in both age-related hearing loss and deafness in children. Dr Sally Dawson, co-lead author of the study, said: “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”.

The world is getting older and we will have to deal with more and more problems associated with ageing. Hearing loss is definitely one of them. A lot of older people still want to work and, thanks to modern medicine, they can. If we manage to successfully treat age-related hearing loss, older folks can work or at least lead a quality social lifestyle.


Source: UCL