Objective. To test the hypothesis proposed in a recent French study that a history of recurrent otitis media (OM) in childhood increases susceptibility to hearing loss from frequent exposure to a personal stereo (PS) during development to early adulthood.

Methods. A subcohort of 358 young adults selected from a historic cohort study, all 18 years old and with a well-documented OM history (secretory and acute), provided data on the sound level and length of exposure to PSs. Four contrasting groups were formed: those with the highest or lowest PS exposure combined with a positive or negative history of OM (n = 238). The main outcome measure was hearing thresholds from pure-tone audiometry (0.5–8 kHz).

Results. Young adults with a history of recurrent OM in childhood did not show greater susceptibility to hearing loss from PS use than their peers without a history of OM. However, a history of recurrent OM was associated with significant mean air-conduction hearing loss of 4 dB and a mean bone-conduction hearing loss of 2 dB compared with the participants without a history of OM (Fig 1).

Conclusions. Recurrent OM in childhood may have an irreversible effect on the middle ear and the cochlea and may lead to hearing deficits in later life. No interaction with PS exposure is seen.

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