Hearing loss is a common after-effect of bacterial meningitis.
Difficulties can range from mild hearing loss through to profound deafness in one or both ears.
All children under 16 years who have had bacterial meningitis should have a hearing test within four weeks of being well enough to test, and preferably before leaving hospital.
If you are over 16 years and are concerned that your hearing has been affected by meningitis, we suggest that you ask your GP to arrange a hearing test.
Hearing loss may not be obvious immediately after meningitis. Any concerns about your hearing should be discussed with your GP even if this is some time after you had meningitis.
There are different types of hearing loss. Sensorineural (or nerve) deafness is the type of hearing loss that can happen after bacterial meningitis.
Sensorineural deafness occurs when there is a fault in the inner ear, most often because the hair cells in the cochlea are not working properly. Damage to the auditory (hearing) nerve that carries sound signals to the brain can also cause this type of deafness.
Sensorineural deafness is permanent. Bacterial meningitis can cause sensorineural deafness in a number of ways. The most common cause is the infection spreading into the cochlea, damaging the hair cells. Another possible cause is inflammation of the auditory nerve.
More information about hearing loss following meningitis
The following fact sheets provide extra information about hearing loss, tinnitus and balance:
The Meningitis and Childhood Deafness booklet produced with the National Deaf Children’s Society provides information on hearing tests that are carried out following meningitis, the effects of any deafness, what can be done to help and the support that is available. This information may also be useful to school teachers who are supporting children with deafness following meningitis.
We can help
Hearing loss can cause major changes in lifestyle for the individual affected, and their family and friends. For support and information, please contact our helpline.
Other organisations that can help
The National Deaf Children's Society
Support for deaf children and campaigns to remove the barriers to achievement for deaf children throughout the world.
Auditory Verbal UK
Auditory Verbal UK is a national charity, which teaches deaf babies and children to listen and speak, so that they can achieve their full potential in life.
The Elizabeth Foundation
Support for infants and pre-school-aged children and their families with hearing loss. It is the Elizabeth Foundation's belief that it is the right of every deaf child to be given the opportunity to learn to listen and talk.
The UK hearing loss organisation makes it easy to find the right information, services and support. It is for people with any level of hearing loss and their families.