Hesperian Health Guides

Hearing loss that is passed down in families

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 15: Why children lose their hearing and what we can do > Hearing loss that is passed down in families

A woman thinking as she carries her baby.
Grandfather was deaf, just like
Lihua. I wonder how much deafness there has been in our family...

Some children's ears do not develop fully. This genetic problem is passed down in families — inherited from other family members and from earlier generations — although no one else in the family may show signs of deafness.

Hearing loss because of intermarriage

Some kinds of hearing loss can happen because of intermarriage between blood relatives, such as first cousins. In many village communities, intermarriage is common. Parents who are related to each other very closely can have children with hearing problems. If you, your children, or your family members have problems hearing, other children born later may also have hearing problems.

Sometimes a child who has an inherited hearing loss may also have other problems, such as problems seeing; different-colored eyes or white streaks in the hair; goiter or heart trouble; or abnormally-shaped bones of the head, hands, feet, arms, legs, or neck. But sometimes the only inherited problem is the hearing loss. Deafness may be partial or full, and may be from the time of birth, or may develop later.

A man and woman carrying their small child and speaking with a man behind a desk.
This is my son Pratap. He is deaf, and so is my uncle.
Will our other babies be born deaf, too?

Avoid marriage between blood relatives such as cousins. Genetic counselors (people who know about the risk of certain diseases being passed from parents to their children) are available in some cities. Try to talk to a health worker if you are concerned about hearing loss in your family.