Mumps Can Cause Hearing Loss


The most common causes of hearing loss in Los Angeles are aging and noise exposure. They are hardly the only culprits, however; many other factors can contribute to long-term damage. One of them has been making headlines recently after a couple of well-publicized outbreaks – and it is completely preventable!

The Dangers of Viral Infections

person in a hospital bed with an IV

Mumps and other viral infections such as measles and rubella not only produce unpleasant physical symptoms; they can also lead to hearing loss. While rare, it’s still something to think about if you are on the fence about immunizing your child.

Mumps was considered all but eradicated until right around the year 2000, when the number of cases began to climb after decades of decline. The trend has accelerated in recent years, with the number of confirmed cases jumping from 1,000 in 2015 to over 6,000 in the ensuing years. Another bout in Washington state last January has public health officials cautioning parents to have their children vaccinated in order to help prevent the spread of a disease that can be successfully prevented.

Like many respiratory infections, mumps is highly contagious; it is usually transmitted from person to person through infected saliva spread by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms show up about two weeks after exposure and include swollen salivary glands on one or both sides of the face; pain when chewing or swallowing; headache; fever; muscle aches; weakness; fatigue and loss of appetite.

Occasionally, mumps can lead to rare but serious complications such as inflammation of the testicles, ovaries, breasts, pancreas and brain; fluid buildup around the brain and spinal cord and hearing loss.

How Does Mumps Cause Hearing Loss?

Nobody is completely sure how mumps can lead to hearing loss, but experts think the virus can attack the cochlea, causing damage to the tiny hair cells responsible for hearing. The auditory nerve, brainstem and stria vascularis – an important source of blood supply to the inner ear – are all susceptible to attack from mumps.

Hearing loss contracted from mumps typically affects only one ear. Unfortunately, because damage usually occurs to the inner ear, this type of hearing loss is permanent. The good news is, only about one to four percent of people who are infected with mumps will develop hearing loss in Los Angeles.

The best way to prevent hearing loss resulting from mumps (or measles and rubella) is to have your child immunized. The MMR vaccine protects against all three diseases and has a demonstrated history of being both safe and effective. Typically, a child will receive their first immunization between 12 and 15 months of age, with a booster when they are four to six years older and another one in their teen years. Children who receive the full round of immunizations enjoy the greatest protection from mumps.

For more information on preventing hearing loss and protecting your long-term health, feel free to speak to a Los Angeles audiologist any time.