GWAS identifies 44 independent associated genomic loci for self-reported adult hearing difficulty in UK Biobank

Helena R. R. Wells, Maxim B. Freidin, Fatin N. Zainul Abidin, Antony Payton, Piers Dawes, Kevin J. Munro, Cynthia C. Morton, David R. Moore, Sally J. Dawson*, Frances M. K. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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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. It causes social isolation and depression and has recently been identified as a risk factor for dementia. The genetic risk factors and underlying pathology of ARHI are largely unknown, meaning that targets for new therapies remain elusive, yet heritability estimates range between 35% and 55%. We performed genome-wide association studies (GWASs) for two self-reported hearing phenotypes, using more than 250,000 UK Biobank (UKBB) volunteers aged between 40 and 69 years. Forty-four independent genome-wide significant loci (p < 5E−08) were identified, considerably increasing the number of established trait loci. Thirty-four loci are novel associations with hearing loss of any form, and only one of the ten known hearing loci has a previously reported association with an ARHI-related trait. Gene sets from these loci are enriched in auditory processes such as synaptic activities, nervous system processes, inner ear morphology, and cognition, while genetic correlation analysis revealed strong positive correlations with multiple personality and psychological traits for the first time. Immunohistochemistry for protein localization in adult mouse cochlea implicate metabolic, sensory, and neuronal functions for NID2, CLRN2, and ARHGEF28. These results provide insight into the genetic landscape underlying ARHI, opening up novel therapeutic targets for further investigation. In a wider context, our study also highlights the viability of using self-report phenotypes for genetic discovery in very large samples when deep phenotyping is unavailable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-802
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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