During admission for recovery of bacterial meningitis, half of the children with hearing loss reported improvement, according to study results published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
“Our results show that half of all ears with likely permanent severe/profound hearing loss after childhood bacterial meningitis had this finding already on admission, whereas the other half was admitted with normal or only moderately diminished hearing and became severely/profoundly impaired later,” the researchers wrote. “On the other hand, severely/profoundly impaired hearing on admission was often transitory, and later improved. On the whole, considerable fluctuation in the hearing threshold occurred in no less than 41% of ears.”
Irmeli Roine, MD, PhD, of the University Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, and colleagues evaluated children diagnosed with bacterial meningitis who had hearing evaluation performed on admission. Auditory brainstem response audiometry using stimuli of 40 dB, 60 dB and 80 dB were used to test hearing.
Overall, 235 ears were tested. Fifty-four percent of ears maintained ≤60 dB level through all three examinations, whereas 5% maintained ≥80 dB through all examinations; changes occurred in 41% of ears.
Ten percent of the ears showed transient deterioration from the ≤60 dB level to ≥80 dB level, whereas 7% had permanent deterioration. However, 22% of the ears showed improvement going from the ≥80 dB level to the ≤60 dB level.
Milder disease (P=.003), fewer convulsions (P<.0001) and older age (P=.009) were associated with maintaining a ≤60 dB level throughout.
“In conclusion, our results reveal considerable hearing threshold changes after admission in almost half of the ears during childhood bacterial meningitis, attribute less prognostic value to the very early [auditory brainstem response] result, and show that substantial improvement, as well as deterioration, can take place in the coming days or weeks,” the researchers wrote. “Definite hearing evaluation should therefore be performed at least 1 month after admission and to all children independently of previous findings.”
Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, the Foundation for Pediatric Research, and the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat in Helinski. One researcher reports being a consultant of the Serum Institute of India.