Otitis Media and Developmental Disability: Epidemiologic Considerations

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Abstract

Review of the literature indicates that: a) otitis media is a common disorder with risk being highest in the pre- and early school years, b) no marked differences in sex distribution of incidence exist, c) frequent recurrences are the hallmark of this disease, and d) mild hearing deficit lasting for months is not uncommon.

A retrospective study in a defined population is suggested as an initial effort to investigate the proposed associations between developmental disability and hearing loss, developmental disability and history of otitis media, and finally, hearing loss and a history of otitis media. Such an approach, however, a) could not determine the absolute risk of developmental disability in children with otitis media, and b) would underestimate the frequency of otitis media, since occult otitis media would not be thus identified. The determination of an accurate incidence of otitis media and of the absolute risk of developmental disability in children with otitis media calls for a prospective study. Such an investigation is likely to be justified only as a part of a collaborative study designed to measure multiple outcomes from a limited number of antecedents.

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