Should genes for non-syndromic hearing loss be included in reproductive genetic carrier screening: Views of people with a personal or family experience of deafness

J Genet Couns. 2024 Jun;33(3):566-577. doi: 10.1002/jgc4.1757. Epub 2023 Aug 2.

Abstract

Many commercial reproductive genetic carrier screening (RGCS) panels include genes associated with non-syndromic hearing loss (NSHL), however little is known about the general acceptability of their inclusion. Although some couples wish to avoid having a deaf child, there are effective interventions and supports available for deafness, and no consensus on whether it is appropriate to reproductively screen NSHL genes. This study explored views of people with personal experience of deafness regarding carrier screening for genes associated with NSHL. We interviewed 27 participants; 14 who identified as deaf and 13 hearing parents of a deaf child. Thematic analysis was undertaken on transcripts of interviews. The findings reveal the complexity of attitudes within these groups. Some vacillated between the wish to support prospective parents' reproductive autonomy and concerns about potential harms, especially the expression of negative messages about deafness and the potential loss of acceptance in society. While some participants felt carrier screening could help prospective parents to prepare for a deaf child, there was little support for reproductive screening and termination of pregnancy. Participants emphasized the need for accurate information about the lived experience of deafness. The majority felt deafness is not as severe as other conditions included in RGCS, and most do not consider deafness as a disability. People with personal experience of deafness have diverse attitudes towards RGCS for deafness informed by their own identify and experience, and many have concerns about how it should be discussed and implemented in a population wide RGCS program.

Keywords: attitudes; deafness; genetic testing; lived experience; reproductive carrier screening; stakeholder views.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deafness* / genetics
  • Deafness* / psychology
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening*
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged