Half of the cases with congenital impaired hearing are hereditary (HIH). HIH may occur as part of a multisystem disease (syndromic HIH) or as disorder restricted to the ear and vestibular system (nonsyndromic HIH). Since nonsyndromic HIH is almost exclusively caused by cochlear defects, affected patients suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. One percent of the total human genes, i.e. 300-500, are estimated to cause syndromic and nonsyndromic HIH. Of these, approximately 120 genes have been cloned thus far, approximately 80 for syndromic HIH and 42 for nonsyndromic HIH. In the majority of the cases, HIH manifests before (prelingual), and rarely after (postlingual) development of speech. Prelingual, nonsyndromic HIH follows an autosomal recessive trait (75-80%), an autosomal dominant trait (10-20%), an X-chromosomal, recessive trait (1-5%), or is maternally inherited (0-20%). Postlingual nonsyndromic HIH usually follows an autosomal dominant trait. Of the 41 mutated genes that cause nonsyndromic HIH, 15 cause autosomal dominant HIH, 15 autosomal recessive HIH, 6 both autosomal dominant and recessive HIH, 2 X-linked HIH, and 3 maternally inherited HIH. Mutations in a single gene may not only cause autosomal dominant, nonsyndromic HIH, but also autosomal recessive, nonsyndromic HIH (GJB2, GJB6, MYO6, MYO7A, TECTA, TMC1), and even syndromic HIH (CDH23, COL11A2, DPP1, DSPP, GJB2, GJB3, GJB6, MYO7A, MYH9, PCDH15, POU3F4, SLC26A4, USH1C, WFS1). Different mutations in the same gene may cause variable phenotypes within a family and between families. Most cases of recessive HIH result from mutations in a single locus, but an increasing number of disorders is recognized, in which mutations in two different genes (GJB2/GJB6, TECTA/KCNQ4), or two different mutations in a single allele (GJB2) are involved. This overview focuses on recent advances in the genetic background of nonsyndromic HIH.