A recent increase in mumps cases across the U.S. has made headlines this spring.
Outbreaks have been observed in 41 states and the District of Columbia, with 736 reported cases from January 1 to April 26 of this year.
That number pales in comparison to the 186,000 cases reported annually before a vaccination became widely available in 1967 but is still alarming given the effectiveness of the immunization and the possible serious side effects of mumps – a list that includes hearing loss.
What are Mumps?
Mumps are a viral respiratory infection that belong to the same family as measles.
They are highly contagious, most often transmitted via infected saliva spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.
Symptoms appear about two weeks after exposure and include swollen salivary glands, pain when chewing or swallowing, fever, headache, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Though rare, serious complications can occur in people who have been infected.
These include inflammation and swelling of the testicles, ovaries, breasts, pancreas and brain; fluid buildup around the brain and spinal cord and hearing loss.
The Connection Between Mumps and Hearing Loss
The number is small but still concerning, especially given the widespread availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
Hearing impairment is usually single-sided (confined to one ear) and, because it affects the inner ear, permanent.
Experts aren’t certain why mumps sometimes leads to a loss of hearing, but suspect the virus can attack the cochlea, irreversibly damaging the tiny hair cells that are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses to the brain that are interpreted as sound.
Preventing mumps is the key to eliminating the risk of hearing loss associated with the virus.
The MMR vaccine protects against mumps as well as measles and rubella, other once-common childhood ailments that can also cause hearing impairment.
Make sure to have your child inoculated around 12-15 months of age – their pediatrician will determine a vaccination schedule – and again between the ages of 4 and 6.
An additional booster shot in the teen years may also be recommended; individuals who have received two or fewer mumps vaccinations have a higher risk of catching the disease than people who have had all three.
Regardless, the long-term effectiveness of the MMR vaccine is around 80 percent. The vast majority of cases occur in people who have never been vaccinated.
Your Doylestown audiologist can provide you with more information on the correlation between mumps and hearing loss if you are interested.
Related Hearing Loss Posts:
- Three Life Hacks for Tinnitus Patients
- Hearing Loss: Could Your Child Be Suffering?
- Age-Related Hearing Loss Genes Identified
North Philadelphia Audiologists Office Locations
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