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October 14, 2002

Study: No lasting school woes from ear infections

From: AP
Oct. 14, 2002

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Lots of early childhood ear infections don't affect hearing enough to cause lasting academic deficits, a study of black, mostly low-income youngsters suggests.

Some parents worry that the mild, short-term hearing loss that may occur when their children have ear infections could slow their learning abilities. While the researchers found some deficits early on, they disappeared by the time youngsters reached second grade.

The University of North Carolina study involved 83 children followed from infancy through second grade. Results appear in October's edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies have had conflicting results.

In the new study, UNC-Chapel Hill researcher Joanne Roberts and colleagues found that youngsters with repeated ear infections scored lower in verbal math problems and in expressive language measures at age 4, compared with youngsters who didn't have many infections. But they caught up in math by the time they entered school and in language by second grade.

Children's home environment had a far greater impact on how well the youngsters performed in school than whether they had a history of ear infections, the researchers said.

"Children from homes that were rated as more stimulating and responsive showed better academic skills and language overall," they said.

The youngsters all began attending child-care in infancy and were primarily from low-income families. Whether similar results would be found in other children is uncertain, the researchers said.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.