When you think of common causes of hearing loss, you’re likely picturing aging and prolonged exposure to loud noises from heavy machinery or concerts at the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre. One significant cause of hearing loss you may not have considered is infection.
Infection-induced hearing loss can occur in one or both ears and is generally categorized as either congenital or acquired.
Infections Causing Congenital Hearing Loss
Congenital hearing loss is a hearing loss that is present at birth. Two common infectious causes of congenital hearing loss include:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV). Approximately one in five babies with congenital CMV will have symptoms or long-term health problems such as hearing loss. Hearing loss may be present at birth and progress from mild to severe over the first two years of life. CMV is an infection usually passed on from mother to fetus during pregnancy.
- Rubella. Rubella is a contagious viral infection that causes a distinctive red rash. While most adults experience mild or no symptoms, rubella can cause problems during pregnancy. If an unvaccinated pregnant woman is infected with the rubella virus, the virus can pass to the fetus, leading to an increased risk of hearing loss.
Infections Causing Acquired Hearing Loss
Acquired hearing loss is any hearing loss acquired after birth. A few infections that can cause permanent acquired hearing loss include but are not limited to:
- Ear infections. Ear infections cause infected fluid build-up in the middle ear. While hearing loss from mild ear infections is usually temporary, severe or frequent ear infections may lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Meningitis. Meningitis is a serious infection and inflammation of the meninges and the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The most common cause of meningitis-induced hearing loss is infection spreading to the cochlea and damaging the hair cells responsible for transmitting sound to the brain.
- Labyrinthitis. Labyrinthitis is a viral or bacterial infection causing inflammation in the inner ear and swelling of the vestibulocochlear nerve (the nerve responsible for hearing and balance). While labyrinthitis is not usually serious, it can lead to hearing loss and balance issues when left untreated.
To help ensure these and other infections do not cause hearing loss, get available vaccinations and seek early treatment if you do get sick to prevent the infection from spreading.
To learn more about how you can care for your hearing, contact Augusta - Aiken ENT & Allergy today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.