OBJECTIVE: To examine whether middle ear diseases and the associated hearing loss in early childhood affect reading performance later at school. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: One hundred and sixty children, 6.5 to 8 years of age, were enrolled in this study: 80 children with a history of recurrent infections and/or prolonged periods of effusions of the middle ear before the age of 5 years, and 80 healthy children without any history of middle ear disease. Data were collected from the medical records of the children. Every child underwent a complete otological and audiological evaluation, followed by special reading tests. RESULTS: The study group performed more poorly, in all reading tests, as compared to the controls (P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Children with recurrent or prolonged middle ear diseases during the first five years of life tend to be at greater risk for delayed reading than aged-matched controls with no previous middle ear diseases.
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