As part of a prospective study of acute bacterial meningitis in children, we studied for five years the hearing of 185 infants and children who had acute bacterial meningitis when they were more than one month of age. Nineteen (10.3 per cent) of the patients had persistent bilateral or unilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The incidence of hearing loss as determined by electric-response audiometry and conventional tests was 31 per cent with Streptococcus pneumoniae, 10.5 per cent with Neisseria meningitis, and 6 per cent with Hemophilus influenzae infections. Transient conductive hearing impairment was found in 16 per cent of the sample, but in no case was there apparent improvement in a sensorineural deficit over time. The site of disease resulting in impaired hearing cannot be stated with certainty, but involvement of the inner ear or auditory nerve was suspected. The number of days of illness (symptoms) before hospitalization and institution of antibacterial treatment was not correlated with the development of sensorineural deafness.
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