No One Listening to Meningitis Concerns; Early Excitement over the Success of Cochlear Implants Has Been Dampened by Evidence That the Devices May Have Led to Outbreaks of Meningitis and Even Death. (the Nation: Cochlear Implants)

By Maier, Timothy W. | Insight on the News, February 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

No One Listening to Meningitis Concerns; Early Excitement over the Success of Cochlear Implants Has Been Dampened by Evidence That the Devices May Have Led to Outbreaks of Meningitis and Even Death. (the Nation: Cochlear Implants)


Maier, Timothy W., Insight on the News


When surgeons placed a cochlear implant inside Rush Limbaugh's left ear two years ago they failed to provide their famous patient with an important warning. They did not tell the conservative radio celebrity that the computerized device that helped restore his hearing was believed to have contributed to several deaths and dozens of cases of meningitis, a potentially fatal, contagious infection of the tissue layers surrounding the brain and its cerebrospinal fluid. The reason for the oversight? Apparently no one knew.

But concern soon prompted angry protests from deaf communities worldwide, particularly in England, where protesters have been calling for a ban on the cochlear implant, declaring: "Better Deaf Than Dead!" Protesters went so far as to accuse hospitals and manufacturers of manipulating research data for profit at the expense of human lives. Unlike the "Deaf President Now!" protest at Washington's Gallaudet University in 1988, demanding that the leader of the university be chosen from the deaf community, the protests about the cochlear implant have had little impact or publicity. But then neither has an apparently related worldwide meningitis outbreak that seemed to come out of nowhere after the cochlear products had been on the market for nearly two decades.

The protests failed to stop Heather Whitestone, the former Miss America, from going ahead with the $35,000 to $50,000 effort to improve her hearing even after the outbreak emerged. Whitestone wanted to hear the voices of her children. Appearing on Good Morning America afterward, she reported that while she can't yet understand what her children are saying, she hears and loves "the sound of running water."

The cochlear implant has three main parts: the internal chip, external processor and a magnet. Inside the internal chip are electrodes that are positioned in the cochlea of the inner ear to activate auditory-nerve fibers needed to transmit sound signals to the brain. An external processor that runs on batteries and amplifies the sound is worn on the body or ear in the same manner as a hearing aid. It is connected by a wire to a magnet that sits snugly on the side of the skull, where it helps transmit messages from the internal chip.

While not a cure for deafness, the implant allows patients to hear sounds they otherwise would not hear, though it can take several years before the patient can interpret what is being heard. At first, speech may seem more robotic than natural, and environmental sounds may seem like a series of beeps. This changes over time. Limbaugh, however, had nearly immediate success in understanding speech, as many newly deafened people do. But he also relies on alternative listening devices, such as a telephone that displays captions, and says he is "completely deaf" when he removes the external processor.

But now the early excitement about such successful implantations is being tempered with concern. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that there is a higher risk among cochlear-implant users of contracting bacterial meningitis than among the general population. Along with other regulatory agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surgeons and manufacturers are conducting a study to try to understand the outbreak of bacterial meningitis among those with cochlear implants.

Most vulnerable to the disease are children under the age of 5 and the elderly. Deaf patients who have had congenital abnormalities of the inner ear also may be more prone to the disease. Common symptoms of meningitis include fever, irritability, lethargy and loss of appetite, and it is the primary cause of children being born deaf. Adults might experience headaches, stiff necks, nausea, vomiting and confusion. Meningitis can be contagious and the bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, such as from coughing or kissing.

As for Limbaugh, he appears not to be among those at high risk of contracting meningitis.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

No One Listening to Meningitis Concerns; Early Excitement over the Success of Cochlear Implants Has Been Dampened by Evidence That the Devices May Have Led to Outbreaks of Meningitis and Even Death. (the Nation: Cochlear Implants)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.