In a study of 50 pairs of fraternal twins with hearing loss, the scientists uncovered evidence linking the hearing loss to a particular region of DNA that previously was tied to a hereditary form of progressive deafness that begins much earlier in life.
The work is believed to be the first genomic screening in search of genes associated with hearing loss using a sample of elderly people drawn from the general population. The 50 sets of twins were drawn from a group of twins who are veterans of World War II and the Korean War.
The results suggest "that this region may contain an important locus for hearing loss in the general population," said Terry E. Reed, Ph.D., professor of medical and molecular genetics at the IU School of Medicine.
The region of DNA identified by the IU study, a section of chromosome 3 named DFNA18, was implicated in a 2001 study of hereditary deafness in a large German family. It's possible the two studies are pointing to the same gene or genes, with variation in the genes resulting in differences in susceptibility to hearing loss, Dr. Reed said.
The findings, by Holly J. Garringer, a graduate student, Dr. Reed, and colleagues Nathan Pankratz, Ph.D., a fellow in the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, and William C. Nichols, Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati, were reported Monday in the May issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.