Hearing loss is the most common long-term after effect of meningitis, affecting up to one quarter of survivors. Although vaccination against Hib meningitis has virtually eliminated a major cause of hearing loss, meningitis is still the biggest cause of acquired deafness in children.
This study investigates long-term progress in speech skills of young children who were deafened by meningitis. These children lost their hearing very early in life, before they had learned to speak, and are so profoundly deaf that conventional hearing aids are of no use. All of them have cochlear implants which are surgically inserted into the inner ear. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged organ of hearing (the cochlea) and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, producing a sensation of hearing. For implantation to be successful, extensive rehabilitation, training and support are crucial - otherwise children never learn to understand the signals from their implants.
Taking place at Nottingham, which has the largest cochlear implant centre in the UK, this project will compare long-term outcomes for these children in developing spoken language abilities to the same outcomes in implanted children who were born deaf.
Standard measurements of speech perception and ability to learn and speak are taken before and after implantation. The effect of factors such as age, method of communication and type of meningitis are considered and parents' concerns and observations are being analysed.
The results will help health professionals select those children for implantation who are most likely to be able to use the implants, improve post-operative rehabilitation, and fin ways to further improve the skills of implanted children deafened by meningitis.
The study will provide accurate, accessible information leading to realistic expectations for parents considering implantation, and should ultimately form the basis of a printed resource.
The study is likely to improve the effectiveness of cochlear implantation in these children and have major implications on service provision, influencing NHS funding of cochlear implantation.
Read our news releases about this project:
Cochlear implants and speech skills following meningitis
Meningitis research in Nottingham
Results from this study have been published in a scientific journal as follows:
Nikolopoulos TP, Archbold SM, O'Donoghue GM.
Does cause of deafness influence outcome after cochlear implantation in children?
Pediatrics 2006 Oct;118(4):1350-6.