Mumps Can Lead to Deafness

Vaccination Is Key to Preventing Mumps and Its Complications

Child with the mumps
Child with the mumps.

In recent years, the mumps virus has made somewhat of a comeback, particularly in the Northeast United States. Mumps can lead to a number of long-term complications, notably permanent deafness in one or both ears -- which occurs in about 1 out of every 20,000 cases and can hit suddenly. Most people who experience permanent hearing loss only have it in one ear. In addition, approximately four in 100 kids with mumps will have temporary hearing loss.

Symptoms of the Mumps

Mumps symptoms can be mild and include sleepiness, aching muscles, headaches, loss of appetite and fever. The mumps gets it name from one of the more hallmark symptoms -- the salivary glands swell, giving the lower-half of the face a puffy appearance. These are unpleasant symptoms, and the only way to prevent the mumps - and any possibility of hearing loss resulting - is to make sure your child is vaccinated on schedule.

After the Mumps

If your child has just recovered from the mumps, it may not be immediately apparent that your child has a hearing loss. With a young baby, you can use developmental milestones in hearing ability to help determine if your child has a hearing loss. Of course, with an older child, it is easier to figure out that there is a hearing loss. Personally, I knew someone who had mumps when he was five years old and suffered partial hearing loss. One of the ways that his family realized something was wrong was when they noticed that their son would look around for the source of the sound, trying to find where the sound was coming from.

A hearing person is usually able to identify the source of a sound immediately.

In addition, since most of the hearing loss caused by the mumps is in only one ear, it may not be easily noticed. Therefore, parents should have their children's hearing tested regularly for a period of time. There is no guideline for how long that period should be, but six to twelve months is probably ideal.

The repeated tests will confirm the presence or absence of hearing loss.

If There is Hearing Loss

If your child does have hearing loss following a case of the mumps, there are things that can be done to help your child adjust. Hearing aids are one option, along with cochlear implants. Learning new communication skills such as sign language, lipreading, and cued speech can also help. So can joining organizations for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children.

Outbreaks of the Mumps

Although the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine has greatly reduced the incidence of mumps, cases still happen. Lack of vaccination has resulted in some major outbreaks in recent years. The CDC tracks and reports outbreaks of the mumps.


Bupa UK - Mumps. Accessed February 2011.

CDC: Mumps. Accessed January 2011.

CDC Vaccine Publication: Mumps. Accessed January 2011.

Continue Reading