By screening 34 genes related to hearing loss, an accurate diagnosis of the causes of an inherited hearing loss can be given in half of the cases. Also, parents of a child suffering from hearing loss can find out the chances of future siblings being born with a hearing impairment.
These were the conclusions of a study led by scientists at the University of Antwerp and published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
All deafness genes get tested at once
Diagnosing the genetic causes of a hearing loss has until now been difficult, because only one or two genes linked to hearing loss could be tested regularly.
However, the new genetic test looks for changes in all 34 known genes connected to hearing loss, for the same cost.
“Using today's technology, only a few of the many deafness genes can be routinely tested, which means that an accurate diagnosis can typically only be given in 10-20% of cases. Our new test uses advanced DNA sequencing technology that can in principle screen all known deafness genes at the same time,” said Professor Guy Van Camp, who led the project at the University of Antwerp.
Valuable news for parents
“The majority of childhood deafness is inherited and knowing the gene responsible can be incredibly important for parents who want to know the likelihood of subsequent children inheriting it,” said Dr. Ralph Home, Head of Biomedical Research for Action on Hearing loss.
This genetic test also has a major influence on what predictions specialists can make about the future evolvement of a hearing loss. This could help families in preparing themselves for the future circumstances of their child's hearing condition.
“Knowing the cause of a child's deafness can also make it easier to predict how their hearing loss may change over time and help families choose the most appropriate treatment or method of communication,” Dr. Home further added.
Source: Action on Hearing Loss Magazine, February/March 2013