The Herpes Simplex Virus and Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss may affect adults and new-borns. There are two types of herpes simplex virus – and the type 1 form doesn’t even have to be sexually transmitted. You can pick it up from someone else’s cold sores! The Type 2 form of herpes is sexually transmitted, but it can also cause mouth sores.

In rare cases, babies become infected with the virus during the birth process. Infection of new-borns can also happen after birth if they are kissed by someone with mouth sores caused by herpes. About 2% of women are infected by one or the other form of herpes, but it is seldom transmitted. Additional risk factors that promote the transmission of Herpes from mother to child include premature birth or invasive fetal monitoring.

Symptoms of herpes infection in new-born babies

Since the first symptoms of herpes are sores around the mouth, eyes or elsewhere on the skin’s surface, it is important to regard these symptoms as being an extremely urgent need for medical attention. Apart from being linked to hearing loss, herpes is also associated with brain damage and in some cases, may cause death. If the infection spreads to the internal organs 30% of babies are likely to die as a result of the infection. Survivors may suffer brain damage, lose or suffer impairment of their sight or hearing or suffer from other disabilities that will trouble them throughout their lives.

Prevention and cure

Herpes is curable, but may recur. It is much easier to treat the virus in adults than in babies. For most adults, simple medication can solve the problem. Babies require intravenous treatment and hospitalization. If a mother is diagnosed as having herpes, she can opt to have her baby by Caesarean section in order to eliminate the chance of infection in the birth canal. However, it should be remembered that mother to child transmission is very rare, even in natural births.

Herpes and hearing loss later in life

Herpes has been linked to sudden hearing loss later in life. The loss may be complete or partial depending on the virulence of the infection. The Ear Institute of Chicago says that a herpes-like virus is the cause of most cases of sudden deafness. Various drugs designed to limit cochlear damage during an infection are being trialled, but are not yet registered for human use.

The cause of sudden hearing loss is often difficult to pinpoint and a large percentage of patients recover spontaneously leading to support for a ‘no treatment’ option in cases of sudden hearing loss. Other authorities believe that since the herpes virus is often responsible for sudden hearing loss, anti-viral treatments are the more logical approach to treatment.

Hearing loss as a result of Herpes Simplex and Cochlear implants

Although this type of hearing loss can be persistent, children and adults can benefit from a cochlear implant or hearing aid. However, adults often find it difficult to adapt to a new way of hearing.

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