A new type of hearing loss and the gene causing it have been identified by an international team of scientists. The discovery makes it possible to be screened for this specific type of hearing loss.

SLC17A8 is the designation for the gene associated with the newly identified type of hearing loss. The discovery, made by scientists from the United States, Germany, and France, opens new possibilities for individuals and science.

The SLC17A8 gene causes a previously unidentified kind of congenital hearing loss, characterized by diminished ability to hear high-frequency sounds. The degree of hearing loss and at what age it appears vary from one individual to the next, according to one of the researchers behind the discovery, Marci Lesperance of the University of Michigan Health Systems.

One direct result of the discovery is that a simple screening for the gene can identify a disposition to the specific type of hearing loss associated with SLC17A8.

Whether or not people seek such a screening, Lesperance urges those with hearing-impaired relatives to be careful about, and aware of, potentially heightened risks to their hearing. They should go for frequent hearing screenings, she says, and avoid exposure to smoking, excessive noise, and other known hearing-loss risk factors.

Lesperance and her co-researchers expect to gain new knowledge about age-related hearing loss (presbyacusis) because of their gene discovery. The newly discovered form of hearing loss is very similar to presbyacusis, except that it occurs earlier in life. The scientists hope that further investigation into the hearing loss gene will provide answers to questions about the causes of age related hearing loss.

[Source: hear-it]