Cochlear implants and speech skills following meningitis
01 November 2006
A major research study funded by national charity Meningitis Research Foundation conducted at the Nottingham Cochlear Implant Programme has just reported in Pediatrics - the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics - on the remarkable achievements of children deafened by meningitis.
Hearing loss is the most common long-term after effect of meningitis, affecting up to one quarter of survivors, and meningitis is the biggest cause of acquired deafness in children.
The study, led by Dr Thomas Nikolopoulos, investigated 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 surgically inserted cochlear implants which bypass the damaged organ of hearing (the cochlea) and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, producing a sensation of hearing.
Taking place at Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, which has the largest children's cochlear implant centre in the UK, the project compared long-term outcomes for these children in developing spoken language abilities to the same outcomes in implanted children who were born deaf.
The outcomes, five years after cochlear implantation, revealed that most children showed remarkable progress. Most (96%) could understand common phrases without lip-reading and 73% could understand conversation without lip-reading three years after implantation three years after implantation, whereas none of them could do so before implantation. Whilst the children's speech was certainly improved following cochlear implantation, only 39% of the children developed very good speech skills within five years of the implant, suggesting that cochlear implantation has certain limitations or that the time period is not long enough for the children to reach their potential in this area.
The outcomes of the study support the further wide use of cochlear implants and will hopefully lead to improved cost-effectiveness of NHS funding of this procedure. But for cochlear implantation to be feasible, hearing tests are urgently needed as soon after meningitis as the child is well enough to be assessed, and certainly within 4 weeks of discharge from hospital. This is because in response to the inflammation caused by meningitis, bone may begin to grow in the inner ear that can make cochlear implantation impossible. The research team also stressed the need for children to be thoroughly assessed for additional disorders and difficulties, and for individually tailored training and support to be present, for children to reach their full potential.
Read more about this project:
Research Archive for the public -Long-term outcomes and linguistic ability in children deafened by meningitis who have cochlear implants
Research Archive for the scientific community - Long term outcomes and predictors in cochlear implantation of children deafened by meningitis
Julia Warren (Meningitis Research Foundation) - 01454 281811 or 07711 057875
Sue Archbold (Ear Foundation) - 0115 942 1985
Tracey Twomey (Nottingham Cochlear Implant Programme) - 0115 948 5549
Notes to Editor:
- Meningitis Research Foundation is a national registered charity currently funding 19 research projects in the UK and internationally to a total value of in excess £2.5 million and has by far the largest commitment of any meningitis charity.
- Meningitis Research Foundation operates a Freefone 24 hour helpline - 080 8800 3344 - providing information on meningitis and septicaemia to the general public and health professionals.
- Information on meningitis and septicaemia is also available on the Foundation's world-renowned website - www.meningitis.org - in 18 languages. An interpretation service in 120 languages available through the 24hour helpline.
- The Ear Foundation is a charity supporting deaf children with implants and their families, and has a growing research programme about the impact of cochlear implantation. Sue Archbold acts as advisor to the Nottingham Cochlear Implant Programme