Familial Aggregation of Pure Tone Hearing Thresholds in an Aging European Population

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the familial correlations and intraclass correlation of age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) in specific frequencies. In addition, heritability estimates were calculated.

Study Design

Multicenter survey in 8 European centers.

Subjects

One hundred ninety-eight families consisting of 952 family members, screened by otologic examination and structured interviews. Subjects with general conditions, known to affect hearing thresholds or known otologic cause were excluded from the study.

Results

We detected familial correlation coefficients of 0.36, 0.37, 0.36, and 0.30 for 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz, respectively, and correlation coefficients of 0.20 and 0.18 for 4 and 8 kHz, respectively. Variance components analyses showed that the proportion of the total variance attributable to family differences was between 0.32 and 0.40 for 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz and below 0.20 for 4 and 8 kHz. When testing for homogeneity between sib pair types, we observed a larger familial correlation between female than male subjects. Heritability estimates ranged between 0.79 and 0.36 across the frequencies.

Discussion

Our results indicate that there is a substantial shared familial effect in ARHI. We found that familial aggregation of ARHI is markedly higher in the low frequencies and that there is a trend toward higher familial aggregation in female compared with male subjects.

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