Exploring Hearing Function Through Genetics

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Exploring Hearing Function Through Genetics

Date of Content: February 11, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Hearing function is a vital sense connecting us to the world. It allows us to appreciate music, understand conversations, and navigate our surroundings safely. It refers to recognizing and understanding sounds through a coordinated process involving different parts of your ear and auditory system.

What Happens in the Hearing Process?

In the process of hearing, various components of the ear and auditory system work together to transform sound waves into the perceptions of sound that our brains recognize. 

  • Outer Ear: Sound waves travel through the air and enter the ear canal, which funnels them towards the eardrum.
  • Middle Ear: The eardrum vibrates in response to the sound waves, transmitting the vibrations to three tiny bones called the ossicles. These bones amplify the vibrations.
  • Inner Ear: The amplified vibrations reach the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure filled with fluid and lined with tiny hair cells.
  • Hair Cells and the Auditory Nerve: The vibrations cause the hair cells to bend, triggering the release of electrical signals. These signals travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.
  • Brain Interpretation: The brain receives the electrical signals and interprets them as sound, allowing us to perceive different pitches, volumes, and tones.
Hearing Function

The Importance of Healthy Hearing

Healthy hearing is integral to our everyday lives. Beyond the simple act of hearing, it directly impacts our communication, safety, and overall well-being.

  • Communication and Connection: Healthy hearing is fundamental for effective communication. It enables us to understand conversations, participate in discussions, and build meaningful relationships. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation, frustration, and misunderstandings.
  • Cognitive Function: Research suggests a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Studies have shown an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in individuals with untreated hearing loss. Maintaining healthy hearing may help protect cognitive function as we age.
  • Physical and Mental Wellbeing: Hearing loss can negatively impact mental and physical health. It can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Additionally, difficulty hearing warning signals or sounds in traffic can increase the risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Overall Quality of Life: Healthy hearing enriches our daily lives. It allows us to appreciate the nuances of music, enjoy conversations with loved ones, and stay alert to our surroundings. Hearing loss can significantly diminish these experiences and negatively impact our overall quality of life.

Genetics of Hearing Function

SIK3 Gene

The salt-inducible kinase 3 (SIK3) gene emerges as a pivotal player in shaping hearing function. A genome-wide association analysis identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) (rs681524) within intron 6 of SIK3. This association, supported by robust statistical significance, suggests a genetic link to hearing function.


In the context of Age-Related Hearing Impairment (ARHI), NID2 and its genetic variant rs1566129 were prominent among the 44 genome-wide significant loci identified in a large study involving over 250,000 participants from the UK Biobank. This study also uncovered NID2’s involvement in metabolic, sensory, and neuronal functions through immunohistochemistry for protein localization in the adult mouse cochlea.

This discovery provides a concrete basis for exploring NID2 as a potential target for further investigations and interventions to address the multifaceted aspects of ARHI.


Also under age-related hearing impairment (ARHI), ARHGEF28 stands out as a significant gene. Previous studies have demonstrated a role for ARHGEF28 in the regulation of neurofilaments, and axon growth and branching. Two independent SNP associations were found within close to the ARHGEF28 locus The study not only expanded the repertoire of established trait loci but also ventured into genetic correlations of hearing function with psychological traits.

ARHGEF28’s association with hearing processes and nervous system functions and its genetic correlations with personality and psychological traits highlight its pivotal role in ARHI. This genetic insight opens new avenues for therapeutic exploration, emphasizing the interconnected nature of hearing function and psychological traits.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Hearing Function

Hearing function can be influenced by various factors, including the environment and certain conditions. Understanding these elements is key to preserving and maintaining our auditory well-being.


The natural progression of age can bring about a weakening of hearing abilities. Age-related hearing loss can be influenced by various factors, including exposure to loud noises, illnesses, and certain medications.

Sound Exposure

Prolonged exposure to excessively loud sounds can harm the inner ear’s structures, leading to gradual or sudden hearing loss. Whether it occurs over time, such as with prolonged exposure in a noisy workplace, or instantly, as with the use of firearms or firecrackers, the severity of hearing loss correlates with the level of exposure. However, sound-induced hearing loss is entirely preventable by utilizing protective devices like earplugs or earmuffs.


While earwax in the ear canal is normal and healthy, an excess can accumulate and impede sound transmission to the eardrum, ultimately resulting in hearing loss. Professional earwax removal by a healthcare provider is a viable solution to restore hearing in such cases.

Existing Conditions

Physical actions like inserting cotton swabs into the ear or experiencing a forceful slap can lead to a ruptured eardrum. Additionally, head trauma may result in fractures within the ear.

Moreover, conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes heighten the risk of hearing issues by diminishing blood supply to the ear and the auditory system.

Understanding these factors that may influence hearing function is vital in maintaining optimal auditory wellness and can empower us to make informed choices for overall well-being.

Protecting Your Hearing

Hearing is often taken for granted, yet it plays a crucial role in shaping our experience of the world. Unfortunately, hearing loss is a prevalent issue affecting millions globally, and its impact extends far beyond simply missing out on sounds. Here are some ways you can optimize your hearing function:

  • Schedule regular hearing checkups: Early detection and intervention are crucial for managing hearing loss effectively. Regular checkups, especially as we age, can help identify potential issues early on.
  • Protect your ears from loud noises: Excessive exposure to loud noises can damage the delicate structures in the inner ear and contribute to hearing loss. Use ear protection when necessary and avoid prolonged exposure to loud environments.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can contribute to overall well-being and potentially reduce the risk of hearing loss.
  • Seek treatment for hearing loss: If you experience any signs of hearing loss, consult a hearing professional. Various treatment options are available, including hearing aids and cochlear implants, which can significantly improve your ability to hear and participate in life.

About the LifeDNA Personality and Cognition Report

Understand yourself better by discovering your unique genetic makeup through the LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report. What makes this exploration profound is that it includes a crucial aspect often overlooked – your hearing function.

This report analyzes the top genes and their variants that may influence your hearing ability and provides science-backed suggestions for optimizing your hearing.

Take a step towards a more informed future—get your LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report today!


  • Hearing function is a crucial sense that enables us to appreciate music, understand conversations, and navigate our surroundings safely. This is achieved through a coordinated process involving different parts of the ear and auditory system.
  • In the process of hearing, various components of the ear and auditory system work together to transform sound waves into the perceptions of sound that our brains recognize.
  • Healthy hearing directly impacts communication, safety, and overall well-being, influencing effective communication, protecting cognitive function, and contributing to mental and physical well-being, ultimately enriching our daily lives.
  • The genetics of hearing function point to the SIK3 gene’s pivotal role with a specific SNP linked to hearing, the NID2 gene’s involvement in Age-Related Hearing Impairment and potential intervention targets, and the ARHGEF28 gene’s significance in ARHI along with genetic correlations with psychological traits, underlining the connection between hearing and mental well-being.
  • Age, sound exposure, earwax accumulation, and existing conditions can influence hearing function, requiring understanding and proactive measures for optimal auditory wellness.
  • To optimize hearing function, schedule regular checkups, protect your ears from loud noises, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and seek treatment for hearing loss promptly to enhance your overall quality of life.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17054-hearing
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24384545/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527366/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33105264/
  5. https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/23/23/6407/2900883
  6. https://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(19)30347-7
  7. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17054-hearing

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.