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Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

Hearing loss experienced by older adults begins very early in life and may have a heritable genetic component, according to a study appearing this week in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. While hundreds of genes have been associated with monogenic congenital hearing loss, little is known about the polygenic underpinnings of slow and progressive hearing decline over a lifetime. Aiming to better understand the association of polygenic risk scores (PRS) for hearing difficulty in middle-aged and older adults with hearing abilities earlier in life, a group led by scientists from the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia performed a population-based cross-sectional study of 1,608 children and 1,642 adults nested within the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, finding that PRS for self-reported hearing difficulty among older adults already show some evidence of associations with objective hearing ability by 11 to 12 years of age, as well as hearing ability in their parents. "This adds to the evidence that age- related hearing loss begins as early as the first decade of life, and polygenic inheritance may play a role together with other environmental risk factors," the study's authors write. Larger studies with objective hearing measurements may be useful in generating more precise PRS to further examine the contribution of polygenic and environmental factors to hearing loss, they add.