Consequences of Early Conductive Hearing Loss on Long-Term Binaural Processing

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Objectives:The aim of the study was to investigate the long-term effects of early conductive hearing loss on binaural processing in school-age children.Design:One hundred and eighteen children participated in the study, 82 children with a documented history of conductive hearing loss associated with otitis media and 36 controls who had documented histories showing no evidence of otitis media or conductive hearing loss. All children were demonstrated to have normal-hearing acuity and middle ear function at the time of assessment. The Listening in Spatialized Noise Sentence (LiSN-S) task and the masking level difference (MLD) task were used as the two different measures of binaural interaction ability.Results:Children with a history of conductive hearing loss performed significantly poorer than controls on all LiSN-S conditions relying on binaural cues (DV90, p = <0.001 and SV90, p = 0.003). No significant difference was found between the groups in listening conditions without binaural cues. Fifteen children with a conductive hearing loss history (18%) showed results consistent with a spatial processing disorder. No significant difference was observed between the conductive hearing loss group and the controls on the MLD task. Furthermore, no correlations were found between LiSN-S and MLD.Conclusions:Results show a relationship between early conductive hearing loss and listening deficits that persist once hearing has returned to normal. Results also suggest that the two binaural interaction tasks (LiSN-S and MLD) may be measuring binaural processing at different levels. Findings highlight the need for a screening measure of functional listening ability in children with a history of early otitis media.

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