Can Ear Infections Affect Learning?

A history of ear infections (otitis media) may not significantly affect early literacy and language development in young children, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers examined 83 children several times between the ages of six months and four years for the presence of ear infections and related hearing loss. Children with more ear infections scored lower in math and expressive language at younger ages, yet they caught up with their peers by second grade. The extent to which parents were sensitive and stimulating was much more important in predicting children's early learning skills than was frequency of otitis media or hearing loss.

It is normal for children to have several ear infections when they are young. But if your child is younger than three years of age and her hearing loss has lasted for more than six weeks, see your pediatrician. Generally, doctors may suggest a hearing test if a child has had:

  • Repeated ear infections (more than four in a year)
  • Hearing loss for six weeks or longer
  • Middle ear fluid for more than three months


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