(Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ASHA)
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading viral cause of hearing loss in newborn infants and is suspected to be the major cause of nonhereditary congenital sensorineural hearing loss. Unborn fetuses are at special risk for serious damage to the developing nervous system. Hearing loss may range from mild to profound, occur in one or both ears, and get progressively worse.
CMV is a relatively harmless virus. It is a member of the herpes virus group, which includes herpes simplex virus I and II (cold sores), varicellazoster virus (chicken pox and shingles), and the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis). Present in most people´s bodies, the virus remains harmless until it is triggered by another infection such as the AIDS virus or staphylococcus bacterium. CMV is identified through blood tests.
It is uncertain how CMV is transmitted; however, it appears that close or intimate contact with secretions or excretions of infected persons is required. Common sources of CMV infection include children, sexual partners, and blood products that are infected with CMV.
CMV can cause cytomegalic inclusion disease (CID), which is a general infection contracted by the fetus before birth or during passage down the birth canal. Nearly 40% to 50% of infected pregnant women will transmit the infection to their fetuses. Mental retardation, spasticity, hyperactivity, encephalitis, microcephaly (reduced head size), convulsive seizures, facial weakness, sensorineural hearing loss, and cleft of the hard or soft palate may result. Infants mildly infected may show no symptoms or developmental delays. Infants with severe infections usually die during the newborn period.
CMV acquired later in life rarely causes noticeable symptoms in healthy individuals. Sometimes, an infectious mononucleosis-like illness with fever, general weakness, and glandular swelling is experienced.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the national professional and scientific society that represents 81,427 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; and speech, language and hearing scientists. ASHA´s mission is to promote the interest of its members, to provide them with the highest quality services, and to advocate for people with communication disabilities. ASHA´s Consumer Affairs Division provides an information and referral service on a broad range of speech, language and hearing disabilities for both children and adults.
For additional information on this topic or other speech, language, or hearing disabilities, contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10801 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852, 1-800-638-8255 or (301) 897-8682 (Voice or TTY).