Can Chickenpox Cause Hearing Loss?

Chickenpox (varicella zoster) is a viral infection that causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is highly contagious to people who haven't had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Before routine chickenpox vaccination, chickenpox was very common in the United States. According to the CDC, "in the early 1990s, an average of 4 million people got chickenpox, 10,500 to 13,000 were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died each year." Today, the number of cases and hospitalizations is down dramatically.

For most people, chickenpox is a mild disease. Still, it's better to get vaccinated. The chickenpox vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and its possible complications.

Boy with chicken pox
lindaobrien PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images

Chicken Pox and Hearing Loss

In adults older than 60, the chickenpox virus can reactivate itself in a condition known as shingles (herpes zoster). One symptom of shingles is hearing loss. If an adult has not been vaccinated for shingles, the virus can also reactivate in a rare disease called Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Ramsay Hunt affects the nerve near the inner ear and causes a painful rash. This painful rash can happen on the eardrum, ear canal, or the earlobe. The syndrome produces weakness of the face one side of the face. In addition, generally, temporary hearing loss can happen in one ear. Treatment involves steroids or antiviral drugs.


A vaccine is available for chickenpox and shingles. It is still possible to contract a case of chickenpox even after receiving the vaccine, but it usually a very mild case. Even if you do contract chickenpox, there is a significant reduction in the risk of complications from the condition if you were previously vaccinated, including decreased risk of acute complications like otitis media as well as bacterial superinfection or shingles.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you suspect that you or your child has chickenpox, consult your healthcare provider. He or she usually can diagnose chickenpox by examining the rash and by noting the presence of accompanying symptoms. Your practitioner can also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of chickenpox and treat complications, if necessary. Be sure to call ahead for an appointment and mention you think you or your child has chickenpox, to avoid waiting and possibly infecting others in a waiting room.

Also, be sure to let your healthcare provider know if any of these complications occur:

  • The rash spreads to one or both eyes.
  • The rash gets very red, warm or tender, indicating a possible secondary bacterial skin infection.
  • The rash is accompanied by dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck or a fever higher than 102 F (38.9 C).
  • Anyone in the household is immune deficient or younger than 6 months old.

Chicken Pox Doctor Discussion Guide

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox vaccination: what everyone should know.

  2. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox (Varicella): signs and symptoms.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chicken Pox (Varicella): complications.

Additional Reading
  • Incidence/Risk Factors.

  • Ramsay Hunt syndrome. National Institutes of Health.

  • Shingles. National Institutes of Health.

By Jamie Berke
 Jamie Berke is a deafness and hard of hearing expert.