All in the Genes: Hereditary Hearing Loss

in General 01 January 1999

Many people face hearing loss and hearing-related issues every day. In fact, 500 million people each year suffer from age- and noise-related hearing loss. But sometimes, though prevention is necessary, your genes are to blame for your diminishing hearing. Recent studies have found that the P2X2 gene, also called the P2X2 receptor, is essential for proper hearing, and mutations in the gene can cause some to be prone to hearing loss. This article discusses how the mutation works, how the newly revealed information can help people, and how understanding this information can improve the quality of life of those who suffer from hearing related issues.


The P2X2 gene is required for proper hearing(PDF file) and protection against noise-related hearing damage and/or noise sensitivity. If there is a mutation in this particular gene, the protection those affected would normally have from loud noises is nonexistent. Having the is linked to a higher occurrence of theDFNA41 gene, which can cause those who have it to experience hearing loss onset between 12 and 20, according to some studies. The gene, which is technically a receptor, is an ATP-gated gene. This means that Adenosine Triphosphate is a sort of "gatekeeper" that opens the door for certain chemicals to come in or out. A mutation in this gene/receptor, then, means that the correct process can't work. When the process is disrupted, the affected person will lose his or her hearing, or experience very diminished hearing.

How Does This Knowledge Help?

Some might be saying, "This is all very interesting, but how does it help?" Knowing the reason behind why so many people lose their hearing, and particularly why they lose it so early on, can help physicians and patients take the appropriate preventative measures to protect their hearing. Prevention of any disease is half the battle, so if you know you have a mutation in this gene and you know what's coming, you can fight against it at times. Those who have the mutation, for instance, can be more cautious around noise, lower their head phone volume, and so on. Also, understanding why something occurs is one step towards medical discoveries that could potentially help correct the problem.

Quality of Life

Understanding the "why" is not just helpful for researchers. Those who know they may lose their hearing, or understand why they already have, can sometimes feel better. Often, not knowing why something has happened to you can lead to feelings of being a victim, depression, and so on. Knowing why something has occurred means there may be solutions to help fix or improve it, and that can make you feel better. Additionally, in light of this new information, those who are identified as having this gene can obtain better care, because knowing the cause of a condition or disease means approaches in treatment can be more customized, accurate, and complete. Places like are helping doctors and patients connect, and understanding that hearing loss is not necessarily the fault of those afflicted may encourage them to connect with doctors through these services and get the treatment they need so their hearing loss does not get worse.

To summarize, a mutation in the P2X2 gene may cause early hearing loss. This is helping researchers develop more accurate treatments and tests for physicians. Protecting your hearing is the best way to avoid substantial hearing loss. For those with the gene mutation, prevention may help slow the progress. Talk to your doctor for more information, and for a plan that is tailored to your needs.

Kenneth Bassett is passionate about hearing. He frequently writes about ear problems, causes, and possible treatments on hearing blogs.

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