Objective: Previous research has linked recurrent otitis media (OM) during early childhood to reduced binaural masking level differences (BMLDs) in school-age children. How this finding relates to monaural processing abilities and the individual otologic history has not been investigated systematically. The current study, therefore, addressed these issues.
Design: Sensitivity to monaural and binaural phase information was assessed using a common test paradigm. To evaluate the influence of the otologic history, overall OM duration, OM onset age, and the time since the last OM episode were considered in the analyses.
Study sample: Children aged 6–13 years with a history of recurrent OM (N = 42) or without any previous ear diseases (N = 20).
Results: Compared to the controls, the OM children showed smaller BMLDs (p < 0.05) whereas their monaural and binaural detection thresholds were comparable (p > 0.05). After controlling for age, the otologic history factors failed to predict the BMLDs of the OM children. Their monaural detection thresholds were correlated with the binaural detection thresholds (r = ∼0.5, p < 0.05) but not the BMLDs.
Conclusions: The current study suggests that early-childhood OM can impair binaural processing abilities in school-age children.