Study: language perception problems and middle ear disorders



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Children with a history of middle ear disease in childhood have been found to have a risk of long-term functional hearing deficit, according to the results of a new study.

A study carried out by researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, recently published in Ear & Hearing, has shown that children with a history of middle ear disease (otitis media) during early childhood have binaural speech perception deficits. These deficits may even persist for years after the event in childhood.

The researchers studied 70 children aged 6 to 12 years who belonged to two different groups, with 35 in each group. Group 1 included those who had previously suffered middle ear disease, and group 2 those with no such history.

According to the authors, the language perception problems they identified are likely to lead to difficulties in the ability to isolate auditory information, such as the teacher’s voice in the school context, from background noise. “Temporary hearing fluctuations in the pre-school period can have lasting effects on auditory processing, resulting in speech perception deficits severe enough to disrupt everyday communication and academic progress,“ says Prof. Rance, co-author of the study. Early detection of these difficulties and awareness of the long-term effects of otitis media, which often affects children during their first years of life, would help to reduce the problems these children face.

Prof. Rance and his colleagues therefore recommended that children with a known history of these disorders be assessed for their spatial hearing capacity when they enter schooling. They cite the Listening in Spatialized Noise-Sentences Test (LiSN-S ,Phonak), which evaluates spatial processing.

Source: Tomlin D, Rance G. Long-term hearing deficits after childhood middle ear disease. Ear & Hearing 2014 Nov-Dec;35(6):e233-42; Phonak.