Self-reported hearing loss questions provide a good measure for genetic studies: a polygenic risk score analysis from UK Biobank

Eur J Hum Genet. 2020 Aug;28(8):1056-1065. doi: 10.1038/s41431-020-0603-2. Epub 2020 Mar 20.


Age-related hearing impairment (ARHI) is very common in older adults and has major impact on quality of life. The heritability of ARHI has been estimated to be around 50%. The present study aimed to estimate heritability and environmental contributions to liability of ARHI and the extent to which a polygenic risk score (PRS) derived from a recent genome-wide association study of questionnaire items regarding hearing loss using the UK Biobank is predictive of hearing loss in other samples. We examined (1) a sample from TwinsUK who have had hearing ability measured by pure-tone audiogram and the speech-to-noise ratio test as well as questionnaire measures that are comparable with the UK Biobank questionnaire items and (2) European and non-European samples from the UK Biobank which were not part of the original GWAS. Results indicated that the questionnaire items were over 50% heritable in TwinsUK and comparable with the objective hearing measures. In addition, we found very high genetic correlation (0.30-0.84) between the questionnaire responses and objective hearing measures in the TwinsUK sample. Finally, PRS computed from weighted UK Biobank GWAS results were predictive of both questionnaire and objective measures of hearing loss in the TwinsUK sample, as well as questionnaire-measured hearing loss in Europeans but not non-European subpopulations. These results demonstrate the utility of questionnaire-based methods in genetic association studies of hearing loss in adults and highlight the differences in genetic predisposition to ARHI by ethnic background.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Presbycusis / diagnosis
  • Presbycusis / genetics*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Self Report*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / genetics
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics
  • United Kingdom