It’s common to associate hearing loss with old age, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes viral infections can impact the cochlea or the blood vessels in the ear. While some viruses cause congenital hearing loss, which is hearing loss that is present at birth, others cause acquired hearing loss later in life. Some viruses are even linked to both.
Viral Causes of Congenital Hearing Loss
Some viral causes of congenital hearing loss include:
- Rubella (German measles). This RNA virus is transmitted through bodily fluids. If a mother has rubella during pregnancy, it can be passed to her child, in which case hearing loss may occur six to 12 months after birth.
- Cytomegalovirus. This DNA virus is the cause of most non-genetic cases of sensorineural hearing loss in infants and children. It is often the case that hearing loss caused by cytomegalovirus appears after the child has already been screened for hearing loss.
Viral Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss
Some viral causes of acquired hearing loss include:
- Measles (rubeola). This RNA virus once accounted for 5-10% of all cases of profound hearing loss in the U.S., though it came close to being eradicated thanks to vaccines. Today the virus continues to cause hearing loss in areas with low vaccination rates.
- Mumps. In the same family as measles, sensorineural hearing loss is one of many side effects of the mumps. In some cases, this hearing loss can be reversed.
- West Nile virus. This RNA virus is related to both yellow and dengue fever. It’s transmitted through insects – primarily mosquitoes. Fortunately, hearing loss is a rare side effect.
Viral Causes of Both Congenital & Acquired Hearing Loss
As stated previously, some viruses can result in both congenital and acquired hearing loss, including:
- HSV Types 1 & 2. These viruses belong to the herpesvirus family, which can occur in both children and adults. Adults typically acquire the virus through contact, while children are usually infected in-utero by HSV1- or HSV2-positive mothers; however, this can be prevented in many cases.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This well-known RNA virus can lead to AIDS along with a variety of other illnesses. Hearing loss is a common side-effect of HIV, as two out of three HIV-positive children have sensorineural hearing loss.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, it’s still possible to catch a virus at West Lake Beach during socially-distanced activities. For more information about the viral causes of hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call Victory Hearing & Balance Center today.