Finding the genes responsible for age-related hearing loss

We're funding the biggest study in history looking at the link between genes and age-related hearing loss. Helena Wells’ PhD research at King’s College London could lead to the development of new treatments for hearing loss.

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Age-related hearing loss affects over 40% of people aged over 65 years, but we don’t know exactly what causes it. However, we can see that our environment and some genes have a connection to hearing loss.
 
With our funding, Helena Wells, supervised by Dr Frances Williams, is studying the genome of a large group of people to find evidence of genes related to hearing loss.

Previous studies of around 10,000 people have found two genes linked to age-related hearing loss. This study will be much larger, 500,000 people aged 40-69 from across the UK took part in the UK Biobank study. Helena’s study will look at the genes of over 150,000 of these people. 
 
This study will help to find genes that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing hearing loss as they get older. Over several years this will build into a powerful resource to help researchers discover why some people develop hearing loss and others do not. This is by far the biggest study of the subject to date.
 
We also think women develop hearing loss later in life than men, so the study will look at men and women separately.
 
This study will give us a more complete understanding of with the link between genes and hearing loss. Because the study is so big, we are almost certain to find new genes that affect hearing loss, and only by understanding the biology behind it can we create targeted therapies for hearing loss.