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Approved Research

Investigating genes and variants associated with age-related hearing loss

Principal Investigator: Dr Morag Lewis
Approved Research ID: 49593
Approval date: September 23rd 2020

Lay summary

Hearing loss is very common in the population, but as yet we have no medical treatments for it, only prosthetics such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. Genes make a large contribution to a person's chance of developing hearing loss, and we now know of more than 100 genes which are involved in hearing and deafness, but finding out which genes underlie age-related hearing loss is a particularly challenging problem.

We are currently working on data from volunteers in America who have undergone hearing tests and genetic sequencing. Our plan is to look at small changes (variants) in the DNA of these people to see if we can identify variants which are linked to the different types of hearing loss they have. We also want to look at the genes involved. It's really important that we can follow up with data from a different group of people, to be sure that our results are real. To do this, we intend to look at the genetic sequences of Biobank participants who have reported whether they do or do not have difficulty hearing. We will identify genes and variants in their DNA which are associated with their hearing difficulty, and compare them to the ones we have already found from our American volunteers. We expect the work to take two years.

There are many genetic pathways involved in normal hearing, and many ways for them to go wrong and cause hearing impairment. In order to develop treatments, we need to understand how these pathways work and which genes are involved. We also need to be able to tell which pathways are likely to be affected in a patients with different kinds of hearing loss, because different underlying problems will require different treatments. Our research aims to address both these needs. When we understand these pathways better, we can investigate ways to control them using drugs or small molecules, and thus develop treatments for different kinds of progressive hearing loss.