Cochlear Implant Health: What Parents Should Know

The Importance of Vaccinations in Cochlear Implant Users

Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and the fluid that surrounds the brain.  Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening infection. Individuals who have a cochlear implant are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis. Although this risk is small, it is important for children and adults with a cochlear implant to be vaccinated against the bacteria that can gain entry into the brain and commonly cause bacterial meningitis. Two types of bacteria have produced the vast majority of cases of meningitis after cochlear implantation. Steptococcus pneumoniae (“Pneumococcus”) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (“Hib”). 

Cochlear implant users and their families should be aware that vaccines against pneumococcus (“pneumo” vaccine) and Hib are widely available. These vaccines strengthen the body’s defenses to protect against the common causes of bacterial meningitis. This is another reason for being sure to get vaccinated. 

Follow-up Care

Cochlear implant users and their families should also be aware that vaccinations do not eliminate the risk of meningitis. Children and adults with cochlear implants who develop a middle ear infection (otitis media) or a fever of uncertain cause should seek medical treatment and monitoring until the infection resolves.  Infections in a child or an adult with a cochlear implant should be taken seriously. Untreated middle ear and other infections may spread to produce meningitis. 

In addition, if an ear with a cochlear implant develops a discharge from the ear canal, or produces unusual ear symptoms or a watery nasal discharge, it is important to have that ear examined by the surgeon who performed the surgery or another suitable experienced cochlear implant surgeon. 

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