Caring for Your Baby: Hearing Loss Related to Zika

Illustration of a doctor doing a hearing test

Hearing loss has been found among some babies born to women with evidence of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Read below to learn more about how Zika virus might affect your baby’s hearing and find out what you can do to get the care your baby needs.

Zika and Hearing Loss

Zika virus infection during pregnancy might cause a range of health problems, including hearing loss, in babies. Hearing loss can be mild to severe.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are different for each baby. Some babies might be diagnosed shortly after birth and some might be diagnosed at a later age. Even if your baby has passed a hearing screening before, it is important to look out for the following signs:

  • Is not startled by loud noises
  • Does not turn to the source of a sound after 6 months of age
  • Does not say single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age
  • Does not turn head when you call his or her name. This is sometimes mistaken for not paying attention or just ignoring, but could be the result of a partial or complete hearing loss.
  • Seems to hear some sounds, but not others.

If You’re Concerned

It is important to let a doctor or healthcare provider know that your baby may have been exposed to Zika during pregnancy. It may be helpful to take notes or videos of your baby’s behavior to explain your concerns during the visit. The doctor may refer your baby to a specialist, such as an audiologist, to get his or her hearing and ears checked.

If you think there could be a problem with your baby’s hearing, talk to your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider about your concerns.

When to Check Your Baby’s Hearing

A newborn hearing screening is the first exam to determine if your baby has hearing loss. A follow-up test is used to determine the severity of the hearing loss. Nearly all newborns are screened for hearing problems before leaving the hospital. Some babies may need a second hearing test done after leaving the hospital to confirm a baby’s ability to hear. If your baby passes his or her hearing screening but displays concerning behavior, it is important that you express your concerns to your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider.

  • By 1 month of age
    • Your baby should receive a hearing screening.
    • If you or your baby tested positive for Zika virus infection, or your baby has any abnormalities related to Zika, your baby should receive an automated auditory brainstem response assessment (automated ABR).

Treatment and Services for Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech, language, and social skills. Treatment and intervention services can help a child with hearing loss. The type of treatment or intervention options, such as hearing aids, can vary depending on the severity of your baby’s hearing loss. Your baby will be evaluated by a pediatrician and hearing specialist before treatment options are determined. There are services for children from birth through 36 months of age called Early Intervention or Part C services. Even if your child has not been diagnosed with hearing loss, he or she may be eligible for early intervention and treatment services.

We are still learning about the effects of Zika on a baby’s ability to hear, as well as what treatments may improve hearing. It is important for you to work with your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider early to manage your baby’s care together.

Care for Your Baby

Babies with hearing loss need support as they grow and develop. A team of many different specialists may work together to evaluate and care for your baby. It is important to work with a pediatrician or healthcare provider to create a medical homeExternal to ensure your baby is receiving ongoing, coordinated care.

Stay in regular communication with the doctors and keep regular appointments. Make sure your baby is getting the recommended screenings and follow-up care. If you have concerns, be sure to talk with your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider.

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