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February 20, 2003

Genetically conditioned hearing loss unevenly spread in population

The frequency of genetically caused hearing loss is significantly uneven from group to group in the German population according to a study of the causes of hearing loss.

A study carried out in the area around Cologne in Germany with 3.5 million people shows significantly higher rates of severe genetically caused hearing loss among children of Turkish parents than among children in the general German population. The incidence was 0.04% among children of Turkish parents, almost six times the general rate.

The researchers examined 314 severely hearing impaired children in specialised schools. They found a prevalence of the type of hearing loss predicated on both parents carrying the gene pointing towards a higher risk of genetically conditioned hearing loss among the population with a tradition of marrying (distant) relatives.

By contrast, the frequency of acquired hearing loss was roughly the same in all groups involved. In total, approximately 1% of the children born to Turkish parents in the area suffered from severe hearing loss, about three times the incidence among children in the general population.

The learning of a language and socializing with other children may be difficult for children with severe and profound hearing loss. Early detection and treatment of hearing loss is essential to minimize the social and psychological effects on the children.

Source: Scandinavian Audiology, Volume 29, no. 1, 2000.

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