This Outbreak May Increase Incidence of Hearing Loss

Microscopic measles virus cell.

You probably already know that some people complain of hearing loss after suffering from COVID-19.

But did you know there’s another outbreak going on – one that we thought was taken care of decades ago? Since late 2018, we’ve been facing a measles outbreak throughout the country, even though measles were declared eliminated in 2000. Besides the common symptoms – fever, cough, and rash – the measles can also cause hearing loss in some cases.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread through the air and can live in public places for up to two hours after exposure. It’s especially dangerous for infants and young children who have not been vaccinated yet for the illness and has been known to cause neurological damage and even death.

How do you treat measles?

While there are no prescription drugs available to specifically treat measles, there are several treatments you can undertake to get mild cases of the illness under control. Treating measles is much like treating a common virus, which includes taking Tylenol, resting, drinking lots of fluids, and taking vitamins. More severe cases should be referred to the hospital in order to prevent brain swelling and hearing loss.

Why do measles cause hearing loss?

One of the complications that can occur with measles is an ear infection. Studies show that nearly 10% of all children who are afflicted by the virus will also get an ear infection. Additionally, children who suffer from brain swelling as a result of the measles (about 1 in 1,000) also risk hearing loss or even deafness. The risk of hearing loss is greatest in measles patients who are under five years old or more than 20 years old.

How do you treat hearing loss caused by measles?

If an ear infection occurs over the course of your measles infection, you should immediately consult with your doctor or hearing specialist to treat infections and inflammation to avoid permanent hearing loss or damage. Treatments for severe hearing loss include hearing aids and cochlear implants, though it’s important to consult with a hearing specialist since the effect of the virus must be treated on a case-by-case basis – not all measles cases are alike.

Fewer people with antibodies

From the time the measles vaccine was first introduced in 1963 to the year 2000, incidences of the illness decreased so much over that time that the virus was declared eliminated. For a time, herd immunity made measles relatively rare, but over time there were fewer people with antibodies and the measles came back. People who are vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine – an initial inoculation and a booster shot – decrease their chances of getting the illness, though not everyone develops antibodies and some choose not to get vaccinated.

As a precaution, try to avoid areas that are known to have been visited by a measles patient – the CDC often issues warnings concerning where these patients have visited and urges anyone who was in that location at the same time to get checked by their doctor. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands often and avoid sharing any utensils or other personal items that were used by someone who may have been exposed to the illness.

Want more information?

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