Before receiving a cochlear implant, you should verify which vaccines against pneumococcus you or your child have received and obtain additional doses if you are not fully immunized.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the lining around the brain and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening infection. Individuals with hearing loss are at an increased risk of developing meningitis. Cochlear implant placement also increases the risk of developing 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: Streptococcus 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 ability to protect against the common causes of bacterial meningitis. Some infections with pneumococcus may not treatable with routine either oral or intravenous antibiotics. Although vaccination does not prevent meningitis, it is the most effective way to avoid this potentially life-threatening infection.
“Pneumo” Vaccines There are multiple types of pneumococcal vaccine, Prevnar® for children being vaccinated when they are less than 2 years of age and Pneumovax® for those being vaccinated when they are over 2 years of age. Prevnar® is part of the routine infant immunization schedule in the United States; therefore, all children should have received this vaccine in infancy. It is important to verify that your child has received all doses of their Prevnar® series, and if not, to catch up. It is recommended that you or your child return to your primary care physician to follow current guidelines.