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Performance of children with previous OME on central auditory measures.

The recent literature on the effects of otitis media with effusion (OME) on central auditory function shows continuing methodological difficulties.

The present study compared groups of 6 year old children with and without previous OME as measured by immittance audiometry on two tests of central auditory function, the Paediatric Speech Intelligibility test (PSI) and the auditory brainstem response (ABR).

Groups were matched for age, sex, race and socio-economic status. Presence or absence of previous OME was determined on the basis of two or three screening tests over 6-10 weeks carried out one year previously.

When children with hearing levels not exceeding 20 dB HTL were compared, significant differences emerged for ABR measures (specifically, wave I latencies in both ears, wave III latency right ear only, and binaural/monaural wave V amplitude ratio), but not for PSI measures.

Closer examination of the results for the OME group showed clear performance differences on both ABR and PSI measures between subjects with no evidence of current OME and subjects with present mild hearing and/or immittance abnormalities.

Differences between the OME and control groups were no greater than the effects of even minor current ear problems.