Genes. Genes are parts of your body’s cells that store instructions for the way your body grows and works. Genes are passed from parents to children. Genes may play a role in about half of the cases of hearing loss in babies and children. If you or your partner has a family history of hearing loss, you may want to speak with a genetic counselor before getting pregnant. This is a person who is trained to help you understand about how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.
There are two kinds of genetic hearing loss:
- Syndromic. The hearing loss happens with other birth defects, such as Pendred syndrome. Pendred syndrome affects hearing, the sense of balance and the thyroid gland (a gland in your body that makes hormones).
- Non-syndromic (also called isolated or undifferentiated). This is when hearing loss is the only birth defect a baby has.
Viruses and infections during pregnancy. Having these conditions during pregnancy may cause hearing loss in your baby:
- Cytomegalovirus (also called CMV). This is a kind of herpes virus that can cause a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and fatigue (feeling tired all the time).
- Herpes. This is a large group of viruses that can cause different kinds of diseases and health problems.
- Rubella (also called German measles). This is an infection that causes mild flu-like symptoms and a rash on the skin.
- Syphilis. This is a sexually transmitted disease (also called STD) that begins with a sore in the genital area.
- Toxoplasmosis. This is an infection caused by a parasite that can cause problems like headache, fatigue or fever.
Premature birth or low birthweight. Premature birth is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Low birthweight is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
Infections after birth. Ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss. But if your baby gets ear infections often that don’t respond to treatment, the infections can cause permanent hearing loss. Other childhood infections, such as meningitis, measles or chickenpox, also can cause hearing loss.
Other conditions after birth. These conditions also can cause hearing loss:
- Head injuries
- Taking some medicines, like an antibiotic called streptomycin
- Buildup of ear wax
- Buildup of fluid behind the eardrum
- Ear infections that scar the ear drum
- Objects stuck in the ear canal, like food, toys or pieces of crayon
- Being around loud sounds, like the sounds of machines