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Long-Term Hearing Deficits After Childhood Middle Ear Disease

Tomlin, Dani; Rance, Gary

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000065
e-Research Articles

Objectives: To investigate the long-term impact of childhood otitis media on listening ability in school-aged children.

Design: Speech perception in background noise was measured in two groups of 35 children, aged 6 to 12 years, with normal middle ear function and sound detection at assessment. The first consisted of children who had previously suffered middle ear disease; the second those with no history of middle ear disease.

Results: Binaural speech perception ability was significantly poorer in the children with prior middle ear disease. Furthermore, spatial listening (the ability to selectively attend to a sound signal from one location) was also significantly impaired. Significant correlations were demonstrated between both the age of onset and the duration of childhood otitis media and speech perception ability (onset: r = −0.58, p < 0.001; duration: r = −0.63, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: These results demonstrate the risk of long-term functional hearing deficit for children with middle ear disease history in childhood. They also indicate that this risk is increased with earlier onset and longer duration. The findings highlight the need for early intervention and an awareness of the potential for reduced functional listening ability even after sound detection has returned to normal.

Functional hearing (speech understanding in noise) of children with a history of middle ear disease is disrupted long after resolution of the middle ear dysfunction. The degree of disruption is associated with the onset and duration of the middle ear dysfunction.

Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia.

The authors declare no other conflict of interest.

Address for correspondence: Dani Tomlin, Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, University of Melbourne, 550 Swanston Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia. E-mail:

Received November 28, 2013; accepted April 8, 2014.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins