CHICAGO - Researchers have identified several risk factors that are associated with the development of hearing loss in children with bacterial meningitis, according to a study in the September issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Bacterial meningitis is the most common reason for acquired hearing loss, according to background information in the article. The researchers state that "5 to 35 percent of patients with bacterial meningitis will develop permanent sensorineural hearing loss, and profound bilateral [both sides] hearing loss will occur in up to 4 percent of patients. The resulting social and educational impairments can be devastating to the individual and society."
J. Walter Kutz, M.D., and colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, reviewed the medical records of 171 children admitted to the Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, with a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis from January 1992 to November 2002. The diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was made with positive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Audiologic testing was performed during the initial hospitalization, follow-up testing was available and findings were analyzed to predict the stability of hearing over time. The children ranged in age from three months to 17 years (average age 3.8 years).
"Of 134 patients who underwent audiologic testing during their initial hospitalization, 41 (30.6 percent) were found to have at least a unilateral mild sensorineural hearing loss," the researchers found. "The incidence of hearing loss was greater in patients with Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis than in patients with Neisseria meningitidis meningitis (35.9 percent and 23.9 percent, respectively)." "Length of hospitalization, development of seizures, elevated cerebrospinal fluid protein and decreased cerebrospinal fluid glucose were significant predictors for hearing loss in children with bacterial meningitis."
"Identification of hearing loss in children with bacterial meningitis and early rehabilitation will lessen the long-term educational and social difficulties these children may experience," the authors conclude.