May 22, 2020

The Genetics of Hearing Loss and Hearing Ability

Your genes massively influence your ability to hear, as well as your risk for hearing loss! Do you know what your genes say about your ears?
Tomohiro Takano

This article looks at all the different ways genetics can influence your hearing. There are two types of hearing subjects we will be discussing today: hearing loss and hearing ability. The genetics of each subject vary greatly because the ears and hearing mechanisms in your brain are very complex!

This article breaks these topics down in a simple way. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the genetics of hearing!

What can DNA tell you about your hearing?

Like many aspects of human biology, hearing is a complicated matter. First, your ears need to form right during development. Then, while you are still inside the womb, your ears and brain begin working together to sort out the massive amount of sound-related information. Since most aspects of how your ears develop and function are directly related to the DNA your cells carry, your DNA can tell you a lot about your hearing.

In fact, DNA can tell you about two different aspects of hearing - hearing loss and hearing ability!

The Genetics of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss typically leads to complete deafness. Those who suffer from hearing loss often have an overriding condition responsible for their hearing loss. Many of these conditions are genetic, though there are so many of them and they are so rare that only a doctor can properly diagnose the condition and screen for any DNA variants that may have caused the hearing loss.

50-60% of hearing loss in babies is genetic, as estimated by the Center for Disease Control. There are many genetic conditions that can induce hearing loss in babies and young children. These medical conditions often need to be addressed by a doctor, though some forms can be mitigated with hearing devices. 

The Genetics of Hearing Ability

Contrary to hearing loss, hearing ability is simply your ability to hear various tones and different volumes. Like most human characteristics, hearing ability exists as a huge spectrum in the human population. Some people can hear a wider range of tones at a lower volume, while others can only hear a much more limited range and require a higher volume.

Your hearing ability comes from two main factors: genetics and your environment.

Up to 75% of your hearing ability is heritable - meaning it depends on what genes you received from your parents. The genes that help shape your hearing ability seem to be related to ear development in the womb. 

Specifically, the genes that have been correlated with increases and decreases in hearing ability are most active in mice while the ears are beginning to form. How your ears develop - including the shape, size, and arrangement of hairs on your inner ear - is essential to your hearing ability and has been related to several different genes.

The other 25% of hearing ability appears to be environmental. Everything from loud noises to cardiovascular disease and smoking can cause a decrease in hearing ability. Working in construction, around guns or explosions, or on a loud factory floor can all contribute to decreasing your hearing ability - and in some cases can lead to complete hearing loss. However, researchers have shown that certain parts of your genome may actually protect you from hearing loss due to industrial noise

So, your specific hearing ability can be reasonably estimated using a number of markers in your genetics!

Enhancing Hearing Ability

There are many solutions for increasing your hearing ability if you find yourself on the low end of the spectrum. However, many of these products are ridiculously expensive and rely on technology that is decades old. 

However, one company is trying to disrupt the entire hearing industry.

Introducing Concha Labs: The Perfect Hearing Solution

Concha Labs is a company that provides hearing devices, as well as high-tech software to control the devices in a wide variety of sound environments. Most hearing aids and hearing enhancement solutions are simply a microphone attached to a speaker. Whatever sounds are in your environment are simply amplified and blasted into your ear.

That’s not very helpful when you’re trying to have a conversation at a busy restaurant.

With Concha Labs, you have the ability to control and adjust the incoming sounds - allowing you to hear exactly what you want in any situation! Simply adjust the settings on your smartphone and presto! - you can hear everything you need and nothing you don’t. 

The software uses proprietary machine-learning techniques to help your device “learn” how you like to hear things. Based on this, it will help you develop profiles for every situation - from a quiet coffee shop to a rock concert. You can easily save these profiles and quickly switch back to them when the need arises.

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO