To identify clinical risk factors that predict a higher incidence of hearing loss in children with bacterial meningitis, to determine the overall incidence of hearing loss in a large group of children proven by culture findings to have bacterial meningitis, and to compare clinical characteristics among patients with Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis and Neisseria meningitidis meningitis.
Tertiary pediatric hospital.
A total of 171 children identified with bacterial meningitis who met inclusion criteria over a consecutive 10-year period.
Main Outcome Measure
Presence of sensorineural hearing loss.
Of 134 patients who underwent audiologic testing during their initial hospitalization, 41 (30.6%) were found to have at least a unilateral mild sensorineural hearing loss. The incidence of hearing loss was greater in patients with S pneumoniae meningitis than in patients with N meningitidis meningitis (35.9% and 23.9%, 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. These factors were not found to be as strong a predictor for hearing loss in patients with N meningitidis meningitis. Stability of hearing was demonstrated with limited follow-up audiometry.
Sensorineural hearing loss is a common sequela 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.