Washington: US researchers have identified a genetic biomarker for age-related hearing loss, a major breakthrough in understanding and preventing a condition of aging that millions of people and greatly diminishes their quality of life.
In a nine-year study that was a collaboration between University of South Florida’s Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers were able to identify the first genetic biomarker for presbycusis.
The genetic mutation carried by those who ultimately suffer from age-related hearing loss is linked to speech processing abilities in older people.
In collaboration with the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, the researchers discovered a gene that produces a key protein in the inner ear – the cochlea – called glutamate receptor metabotropic 7 (GRM7). The GRM7 protein is intimately involved in converting sound into the code of the nervous system, in the cochlea, which is then sent to the parts of the brain used for hearing and speech processing.
Now having identified the gene, the researchers said people can be tested and takes steps earlier in life – such as avoiding loud noises, wearing ear protection and avoiding certain medicines known to damage hearing – to protect their hearing.
The study has been published in the journal Hearing Research.