Background Hearing loss is caused by several environmental and genetic factors and the proportion attributed to inherited causes is assumed at 50 ~ 60% . Mutations in GJB2 and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) 12S rRNA are the most common molecular etiology for nonsyndromic sensorineural hearing loss (NSHL). The mutation spectra of these genes vary among different ethnic groups. Methods To add the molecular etiologic information of hearing loss in the Chinese population, a total of 658 unrelated patients with NSHL from Jiangsu Province of China were selected for mutational screening including GJB2 and mtDNA 12S rRNA genes using PCR and DNA sequencing technology. As for controls, 462 normal-hearing individuals were collected. Results A total of 9 pathogenic mutations in the GJB2 and 7 pathogenic mutations in the 12S rRNA gene were identified. Of all patients, 70 had monoallelic GJB2 coding region mutation in the heterozygous state, 94 carried two confirmed pathogenic mutations including 79 homozygotes and 15 compound heterozygotes. The 235delC appears to be the most common deafness-causing GJB2 mutation (102/658, 15.50% ). No mutations or variants in the GJB2 exon1 and basal promoter region were found. In these patients, 4 subjects carried the m.1494C > T mutation (0.61% ) and 39 subjects harbored the m.1555A > G mutation (5.93% ) in mtDNA 12S rRNA gene. A novel sequence variant at m.1222A > G in the 12S rRNA gene was identified, which could alter the secondary structure of the 12S rRNA. Conclusion The mutation spectrum and prevalence of GJB2 and mtDNA 12S rRNA genes in Jiangsu population are similar to other areas of China. There are in total 31.46% of the patients with NSHL carry deafness-causing mutation in GJB2 or mtDNA 12S rRNA genes. Mutation in GJB2 gene is the most common factor, mtDNA 12S rRNA also plays an important part in the pathogenesis of hearing loss in Jiangsu Province areas. The m.1222A > G was found to be a new candidate mutation associated with hearing loss. Our results indicated the necessity of genetic screening for mutations of these genes in Jiangsu patients with NSHL.