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Gallaudet Univeristy
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CI & Meningitis

Cochlear Implant Recipients Have A Small But Increased Risk Of Meningitis

Currently, almost 10,000 children in the United States with severe to profound hearing loss have cochlear implants. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state health departments which was reported in the July 31, 2003 New England Journal of Medicine, children with cochlear implants have a small but increased risk of contracting meningitis. Of the 4,264 children who received cochlear implants between 1997 and 2002, 26 developed meningitis indicating a 30 times greater incidence among same aged children in the general population. About one half of the cases reported were due to the use of an "electrode positioner" during implant surgery, which was voluntarily withdrawn by the manufacturer in July 2002. Related to the possible risk of meningitis, the following should be taken into consideration:

- Any surgery on the inner ear can increase the risk of infectious diseases like meningitis.
-Some individuals who are deaf may have congenital abnormalities of the inner ear that make them more prone to meningitis with or without an implant, and

-Some individuals who are deaf from meningitis may be at an increased risk for subsequent episodes of meningitis in comparison to the general population

In addition to reporting the risk factors, the above study emphasized the following recommendations:

• Cochlear implant recipients should have received pneumococcal vaccinations with cochlear implant candidates vaccinated at least two weeks prior to surgery.

• Parents need to know the symptoms of meningitis and be vigilant for possible signs of meningitis.

• Middle ear infections (otitis media) should be treated promptly. In some cases, cochlear implant recipients had signs of middle ear infection prior to surgery or before meningitis developed.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting the following websites or by contacting Gail Linn through the American Speech-Language-Hearing (ASHA) Action Center at 800-498-2071 (ext. 4112) or email at glinn@asha.org :