Hearing loss and its impact in social interactions can be potentially minimized in children with bacterial meningitis through early identification, according to a study conducted at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston. The study appears in today's print edition of the Archives of Otolaryngology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Researchers reviewed 171 patient cases over a 10-year consecutive period and analyzed common risk factors for hearing loss.
Principal investigator Dr. Walter Kutz, a BCM otorhinolaryngology resident at the time of the study and now a fellow at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, and his team also found that children suffering from the Streptococcus form of meningitis – coupled with high fever, long hospital stays, facial muscular paralysis, and seizures – had a higher rate of hearing loss compared to children with other forms of meningitis.
"There is no way to reverse hearing loss, but treatments such as hearing aids or cochlear implants are options to regain a more normal life," said Dr. Carla Marie Giannoni, assistant professor of otolaryngology at BCM and study co-author.
Determining which children are most at risk and testing for hearing loss sooner allows for earlier treatment where necessary, lessening long-term social difficulties.
"Patients with earlier diagnoses are typically able to return to school sooner and experience fewer problems interacting with others than if their hearing loss had not been detected," Gianonni said.
The study's coordinators recommend that children suffering from any form of bacterial meningitis have their hearing tested to provide early identification of hearing disability and minimize long-term, adverse outcomes due to hearing loss.
Dr. Spiros Manolidis, formerly of BCM and currently an associate professor of otolaryngology at Columbia University, also contributed to this study.
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