To determine the association between time spent with middle ear effusion and development of speech and language, 205 three-year-old children were studied. Each child had been followed prospectively from birth to record the number of episodes of middle ear disease and to document time spent with middle ear effusion. Standardized tests of speech and language were administered at age 3 years to children who had spent much time with middle ear effusion and to children who had spent little or no time with middle ear effusion. Children who had spent prolonged periods of time with middle ear effusion had significantly lower scores when compared with those who had spent little time with middle ear disease. The correlation was strongest in children from higher socio-economic strata. Time spent with middle ear effusion in the first 6 to 12 months of life was most strongly associated with poor scores.

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