Seventeen children with previous bacterial meningitis and 17 sib controls were examined clinically and otoscopically. They were also tested with air-conduction and bone-conduction audiometry and evaluated by tympanometry. There were no major neurological abnormalities and few otoscopical signs of ear disease. 21% of the ears showed abnormalities on air-conduction audiometry but all were normal on bone-conduction audiometry. 30% had abnormal middle-ear pressures (more negative than 100 mm water) on tympanometry and 7% had abnormal compliance of the drum. There were no significant differences on any test between the postmeningitis children and the sib controls. Population studies have confirmed that minor hearing loss due to middle-ear dysfunction is common in children, but is probably temporary in most of them. We have found no excess of middle-ear dysfunction and no sensorineural deafness in these postmeningitis children, but other workers have shown that nerve deafness may occur in association with clinical neurological damage. However, much of the deafness attributed to bacterial meningitis in other studies may well reflect population variability.
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