Some people may be more genetically susceptible to hearing loss due to loud noises, a new study finds.
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Soldiers are especially at risk.
In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported hearing loss as one of the most common disabilities among veterans receiving disability compensation.
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“Understanding the biological processes that affect susceptibility to hearing loss due to loud noise exposure is an important factor in reducing the risk,” says Rick A. Friedman, professor of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California and senior author of the study.
“We have made great advances in hearing restoration, but nothing can compare to protecting the hearing you have and preventing hearing loss in the first place.”
Earlier gene association studies on noise-induced hearing loss in people have been small and results have not been replicated.
Genome-wide association studies, or GWAS, search the entire genome for common genetic variants to see if any of those variants are associated with a trait. Mouse GWAS have led to the discovery of hundreds of genes involved in complex traits that have immediate relevance to people.
In the new study, published in PLOS Genetics, researchers identified the Nox3 gene, which is almost exclusively expressed in the inner ear, as a key gene for susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss.
More research is necessary before clinical recommendations can be made.
Other researchers from USC and from University of California, Los Angeles and Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul collaborated on the study, which was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior.