Cochlear Implants and Vaccination Recommendations

Information for the General Public

At a Glance

Certain vaccines can help prevent meningitis in people who have a special hearing device called a cochlear implant. Meningitis is inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. For best protection, people with cochlear implants should keep up to date with all recommended vaccinations.

General Information

Many types of bacteria can cause meningitis.

The leading causes of bacterial meningitis in the United States include:

  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Neisseria meningitidis (causes meningococcal meningitis)
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (causes pneumococcal meningitis)

People with cochlear implants are at increased risk for some types of bacterial meningitis.

People with cochlear implants are at increased risk for bacterial meningitis, especially pneumococcal meningitis. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration learned this from a 2002 study of children with cochlear implants.

Vaccines can help prevent some types of bacterial meningitis.

Vaccines are available in the United States to help protect against some types of bacterial meningitis.

Types of bacterial meningitis and the vaccines that help protect against it
Type of bacterial meningitis Vaccines that help protect against it
H. influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis Hib conjugate vaccines
Meningococcal meningitis Meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccines
Serogroup B meningococcal (MenB) vaccines
Pneumococcal meningitis Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs), including PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20 Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

General Vaccination Recommendations

CDC does not have any special vaccination recommendations for people with hearing loss.

People with hearing loss should receive the vaccines recommended for people without hearing loss, based on age and other health conditions. People with hearing loss should discuss questions about possible ear abnormalities and their risk for vaccine-preventable diseases with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.

Pneumococcal Vaccination Recommendations

CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all children, including those with cochlear implants.

Children younger than 2 years old with cochlear implants should receive PCV13 according to the Childhood Immunization Schedule. If an older child with cochlear implants did not get the recommended shots as an infant and young child, they may need to receive PCV13. Children 2 years or older with cochlear implants should also receive PPSV23. Talk to your child’s doctor about when your child should get these vaccines.

Children should get all recommended shots of pneumococcal vaccines at least 2 weeks before cochlear implant surgery. This will provide maximum protection both during and after surgery. Children already up to date with pneumococcal vaccination do not need extra shots before surgery.

CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for adults with cochlear implants.

All adults with cochlear implants who have never received pneumococcal vaccines should receive 1 shot of PCV15 or PCV20. If PCV15 is used, it should be followed by 1 shot of PPSV23. Talk to your doctor about when you should get these vaccines.

Adults should get all recommended shots of pneumococcal vaccines at least 2 weeks before cochlear implant surgery. This will provide maximum protection both during and after surgery. Adults already up to date with pneumococcal vaccination do not need extra shots before surgery.

CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for people who have had pneumococcal meningitis in the past.

A past case of pneumococcal meningitis does not provide enough protection against getting this form of meningitis again. For this reason, people should receive pneumococcal vaccines according to CDC’s recommended schedules regardless of if they have had pneumococcal meningitis.

Hib Vaccination Recommendations

CDC recommends Hib vaccination for all children younger than 5 years old, including those with cochlear implants.

All children younger than 5 years old should receive Hib vaccines according to the Childhood Immunization Schedule.

Children younger than 5 years old should be up to date on Hib vaccination at least 2 weeks before cochlear implant surgery. Children already up to date with Hib vaccination do not need extra shots before surgery.

CDC recommends vaccination for some children who have had meningitis caused by Hib in the past.

Children who had Hib meningitis when they were younger than 2 years old may need more shots of a Hib vaccine. It depends on their current age. Children who had Hib meningitis when they were 2 years or older do not need more shots of a Hib vaccine.

CDC does not recommend Hib vaccination specifically for older children and adults with cochlear implants.

Data do not suggest older children or adults with cochlear implants need Hib vaccination. That is why CDC does not recommend Hib vaccination for older children and adults with cochlear implants.

Meningococcal Vaccination Recommendations

CDC recommends meningococcal vaccination for all preteens and teens, including those with cochlear implants.

All preteens and teens should receive a MenACWY vaccine according to the Preteen/Teen Immunization Schedule. Teens may also receive a MenB vaccine.

CDC does not recommend meningococcal vaccination specifically for younger children and adults with cochlear implants.

Data do not suggest that people with cochlear implants are at increased risk for meningococcal meningitis. That is why CDC does not recommend meningococcal vaccination specifically for people with cochlear implants.

Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness

Vaccines that help prevent bacterial meningitis are safe, but side effects can occur.

The vaccines used to protect against bacterial meningitis are safe. When side effects occur, they are usually mild. Local reactions, such as a sore arm at the site of the injection, are common with some of the vaccines. Some people may also get a fever. Get more information about side effects on the vaccine side effects web page.

Vaccines that help prevent bacterial meningitis work well, but cannot prevent all cases in people with cochlear implants.

Vaccines do not protect against all bacteria that cause meningitis. In addition, vaccines do not always protect against all types of any given bacteria. For example, pneumococcal vaccines protect against many, but not all, strains of S. pneumoniae. Also, people with weakened immune systems may not respond as well to vaccines. This may leave them at increased risk for getting meningitis.

Page last reviewed: August 8, 2019