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Risk factors for hearing loss from meningitis in children: the Children's Hospital experience.

OBJECTIVES: To identify statistically significant risk factors for hearing loss in children with meningitis, determine the overall incidence of hearing loss in a large group of children with confirmed meningitis, and quantify the percentage of children with progressive or fluctuating hearing loss after meningitis.

DESIGN: Retrospective analysis.

PATIENTS AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Four hundred thirty-two children admitted to the Children's Hospital, Birmingham, Ala, from January 1, 1985, to December 31, 1995, with the diagnosis of meningitis.

RESULTS: Of 432 children with meningitis, 59 (13.7%) had the development of hearing loss. Of these 59 children, 46 (78.0%) had stable sensorineural hearing loss and 13 (22.0%) had either progressive or fluctuating hearing loss. Of the variables examined using multiple logistic regression backward-elimination modeling, only 5 appeared to be significantly associated with the development of hearing loss: computed tomographic scan evidence of increased intracranial pressure (estimated odds ratio [OR] = 2.3), male sex (OR= 1.9), the common logarithm of glucose levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (OR = 0.58), Streptococcus pneumoniae as the causative organism (OR= 2.1), and the presence of nuchal rigidity (OR = 1.9). In the children with progressive hearing loss, the time for progression varied from 3 months to 4 years before hearing stabilized.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study of children diagnosed as having meningitis, hearing loss developed in 59 (13.7%). Forty-six (78.0%) of these children with hearing loss had stable auditory thresholds over time, and 13 (22.0%) exhibited deterioration or fluctuation of acuity over time. Evidence of increased intracranial pressure by computed tomographic scan, male sex, low glucose levels in the patients' cerebrospinal fluid, S pneumoniae as the causative organism, and the presence of nuchal rigidity appear to be significant predictors for future hearing loss.

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