Researchers call for greater attention to be paid to ear infections
The Sector > Research > Researchers call for greater attention to be paid to ear infections

Researchers call for greater attention to be paid to ear infections

by Freya Lucas

January 08, 2024

While ear infections are a common childhood experience, a new study has suggested that parents and educators should take them seriously in order to protect children’s language development. 


Each ear infection, the University of Florida (UF) researchers argue, can potentially impair hearing with fluid building up behind the eardrum. Repeated, temporary hearing loss can lead to deficits in auditory processing and language development in children years later.


“Ear infections are so common that we tend to dismiss them as having no long-term effect. We should take all ear infections seriously,” lead researcher Professor Susan Nittrouer explained.


“Parents should be aware that their child may have some middle ear fluid without it being painful and work with their doctor to monitor their child closely.”


In building the research the UF team studied the auditory processing and language development of 117 children from ages 5 to 10 years both with and without a history of chronic ear infections in early childhood.


On average, children with several ear infections before three years of age had smaller vocabularies and a harder time matching similar sounding words than children with few or no ear infections. They also had difficulty detecting changes in sounds, a sign of problems in their brain’s auditory processing centers.


Given that as children go through school the language they need to use becomes more complex, researchers believe that parents, physicians, and speech pathologists need to continue monitoring children long after preschool, noting that some language deficits may only reveal themselves in later grades.


“As children go through school, the language they’re required to use becomes more complex,” Professor Nittrouer said.


The findings were published in  the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology and may be accessed here

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