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Hearing loss caused by meningitis

A leading cause of acquired deafness, meningitis has been found to cause permanent hearing loss in about 8% of those that recover, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation.

While it should be emphasised that not all people who experience meningitis will suffer hearing loss, it is true that they are at much higher risk. 

It is therefore important that those who experience meningitis should have a hearing test as soon as they can. This will determine if there has been any impact to their hearing and what provisions can be made to help the situation.

And if you - or someone you know - has experienced hearing loss from meningitis, please know there is support available at Amplifon. We offer ways to help with your hearing, including the use of discrete, comfortable and effective hearing aids.

Hearing loss and meningitis

Meningitis is an infection in the lining and fluid around the brain and spinal column.

It can be viral, fungal, or parasitic, but the bacterial form of meningitis is most closely associated with hearing loss. In this case, damage to hearing is caused when toxins from the bacteria attack the inner ear - where they can cause damage to the hair cells of the cochlea or nerve fibres. This usually happens within the first couple of days of illness.

It is estimated that 30% of bacterial cases lead to some kind of hearing damage. This damage can be to a moderate or severe degree, affect one or both ears, and can be permanent or temporary. 

It is most common to children but bacterial meningitis is something that can be contracted at any age.

Treatments for meningitis and hearing loss prevention

With the exception of cases of viral meningitis, powerful antibiotics are used to treat the illness in hospital. One of the things to be aware of is that some of these medications can have the side-effect of actually causing hearing loss themselves. It is recommended to discuss this with your doctor. 

When treating bacterial meningitis, steroids are used to help reduce the risk of neurological damage and the possibility of hearing loss and blindness. In some cases, steroids will be administered directly to the inner ear as a preventative measure against damage that will impact hearing.

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Hearing test

With the risks of hearing loss in mind, it’s very important that people who have recovered from meningitis get tested to find out if there has been any loss of hearing. 

This should be done as soon as possible from the time they are discharged from hospital (at least within four to six weeks). 

This is strongly advised even if there are no obvious signs of hearing loss. The sooner any problems are identified, the sooner a solution can be found which can help that person continue to enjoy as much hearing as possible.

Amplifon testing

Amplifon offers free hearing tests to persons over 26. These can be conducted at one of over 300 Amplifon clinics across Australia. The process is very straightforward, involves a few simple tests, and only takes about 15 minutes. 

We realise for those that have recently experienced hearing loss caused by meningitis - as well as their loved ones - it is likely a stressful and difficult time. Rest assured, we’re here to make things as easy and comfortable as possible. Our goal is to give you peace of mind, with absolute clarity about your hearing.

We should also point out that your appointment will take place in a clinic following appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices to ensure a COVID-safe environment. 

If those tests reveal hearing loss, we’ll recommend a more comprehensive test with an audiologist or audiometrist. 

They’ll be able to advise you on the most appropriate solution - which might be in the form of a hearing aid. These small, discrete and comfortable devices use the latest technology to help you enjoy the proper listening experience that’s part of a happy, healthy life. 

At Amplifon, these include almost invisible styles, fitting either inside the ear or with a snug fit behind the ear,  as well as devices that connect wirelessly to your smartphone. 

Meanwhile, you can find more important information on illness that may cause hearing loss here.

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