If a mother is infected with the virus cytomegalovirus, CMV, before or during pregnancy, there is a greater than a 10% risk that her baby will suffer from severe or total hearing loss, a Belgian study shows. The hearing loss in CMV infected children can be present at birth or develop over time.
Hearing loss dependent on symptoms
The CMV virus is the most common cause of non-inherited hearing loss. It is related to viruses that cause chickenpox and mononucleosis and strikes less than 1% of newborn babies of whom 12.6% will suffer from permanent hearing loss.
For infected children not showing symptoms, one out of ten develops hearing loss and usually only one ear is affected. Of children who show symptoms of the virus, one third suffer from hearing loss and it will affect both ears.
Among symptoms of the CMV virus at birth are yellow skin and eyes, purple skin splotches, low birth weight, enlarged spleen or liver and others.
Prevention is important
Research has shown that pregnant women usually get infected from toddlers and pass on the virus to their unborn child. Once infected, the virus stays in the body for life. So far, there is no cure for the virus, only limited treatment with antiviral drugs. Therefore, the best solution is prevention.
“Until a vaccine becomes available, behavioral and educational interventions are the most effective strategy to prevent mothers from being infected with CMV,” lead researcher Dr. Julie Goderis of University Hospital Ghent in Belgium says.
Children who are infected and develop hearing loss will be in need of hearing aids or cochlear implants depending on the severity of the hearing loss.
The study was based on 37 previously published studies and published in the journal Pediatrics.