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Genome-wide association study identifies 44 independent genomic loci for self-reported adult hearing difficulty in the UK Biobank cohort

By Helena RR. Wells, Maxim Freidin, Fatin N Zainul Abidin, Antony Payton, Piers Dawes, Kevin J Munro, Cynthia C. Morton, David R. Moore, Sally J Dawson, Frances MK Williams

Posted 14 Feb 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/549071

Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) is the most common sensory impairment in the aging population; a third of individuals are affected by disabling hearing loss by the age of 65. ARHI is a multifactorial condition caused by both genetic and environmental factors, with estimates of heritability between 35% and 55%. The genetic risk factors and underlying biological pathology of ARHI are largely unknown, meaning that targets for new therapies remain elusive. We performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for two self-reported hearing phenotypes, hearing difficulty (HDiff) and hearing aid use (HAid), using over 250,000 UK Biobank volunteers aged between 40-69 years. We identified 44 independent genome-wide significant loci (P<5E-08), 33 of which have not previously been associated with any form of hearing loss. Gene sets from these loci are enriched in auditory processes such as synaptic activities, nervous system processes, inner ear morphology and cognition. Immunohistochemistry for protein localisation in adult mouse cochlea indicate metabolic, sensory and neuronal functions for NID2, CLRN2 and ARHGEF28 identified in the GWAS. These results provide new insight into the genetic landscape underlying susceptibility to ARHI.

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