August 1995

Long-term Effects of Chronic Otitis Media on Binaural Hearing in Children

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical School.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995;121(8):847-852. doi:10.1001/archotol.1995.01890080017003

Objective:  To determine the long-term effect of otitis media with effusion (OME) on binaural hearing in children.

Design:  Longitudinal testing over a 4-year period following insertion of tympanic membrane grommets, employing clinical and normal control groups.

Subjects:  Twenty-two children with a history of OME were tested before insertion of grommets and at 3 months and 1 year after surgery; 14, 11, and 8 of the children were followed up for 2, 3, and 4 years after surgery, respectively. An age-matched control group of 40 children was tested.

Methods:  The masking-level difference (MLD) paradigm was used to measure the ability of the binaural auditory system to aid the detection of a pure-tone signal presented in a random masking noise.

Results:  Although the results indicated a significant improvement in the MLD with increasing time after middle ear surgery, the MLD remained significantly reduced even 2 years after hearing threshold correction. The MLDs of the OME group did not differ significantly from those of the control group when tested 3 years after middle ear surgery, even though a small proportion of subjects with a history of OME continued to have MLDs smaller than normal limits.

Conclusion:  In general, the results suggest a slow recovery of binaural function in children with OME after restoration of normal hearing thresholds.(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995;121:847-852)