Longitudinal analysis of ear infection and hearing impairment: findings from 6-year prospective cohorts of Australian children

Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan, Anthony HOGAN, Lyndall Strazdins

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Middle ear infection is common in childhood. Despite its prevalence, there is little longitudinal evidence about the impact of ear infection, particularly its association to hearing loss. By using 6-year prospective data, we investigate the onset and impact over time of ear infection in Australian children.

We analyse 4 waves of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) survey collected in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. There are two age cohorts in this study (B cohort aged 0/1 to 6/7 years N=4242 and K cohort aged 4/5 to 10/11 years N=4169). Exposure was parent-reported ear infection and outcome was parent-reported hearing problems. We modelled ear infection onset and subsequent impact on hearing using multivariate logistic regressions, reporting Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR) and Confidence Intervals (95% CI). Separate analyses were reported for indigenous and non-indigenous children.

Associations of ear infections between waves were found to be very strong both among both indigenous and non-indigenous children in the two cohorts. Reported ear infections at earlier wave were also associated with hearing problems in subsequent wave. For example, reported ear infections at age 4/5 years among the K cohort were found to be predictors of hearing problems at age 8/9 years (AOR 4.0, 95% CI 2.2-7.3 among non-indigenous children and AOR 7.7 95% CI 1.0-59.4 among indigenous children). Number of repeated ear infections during the 6-year follow-up revealed strong dose–response relationships with subsequent hearing problems among non-indigenous children (AORs ranged from 4.4 to 31.7 in the B cohort and 4.4 to 51.0 in the K cohort) but not statistically significant among indigenous children partly due to small sample.

This study revealed the longitudinal impact of ear infections on hearing problems in both indigenous and non-indigenous children. These findings highlight the need for special attention and follow-up on children with repeated ear infections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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