Middle ear effusion, ventilation tubes and neurological development in childhood

Jonathan Thorsen, Tine Marie Pedersen, Anna Rosa Cecilie Mora-Jensen, Elín Bjarnadó ttir, Søren Christensen Bager, Hans Bisgaard, Jakob Stokholm*

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


Background Otitis media with middle ear effusion (MEE) can be treated with ventilation tubes (VT) insertion, and it has been speculated that prolonged MEE in childhood can affect neurological development, which in turn may be important for later academic achievements. Objective To investigate the association between middle ear effusion (MEE), treatment with ventilation tubes (VT) and childhood neurological development. Study design We examined 663 children from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood 2010 (COPSAC2010) unselected mother-child cohort study. Children were followed by study pediatricians with regular visits from pregnancy until 3 years of age. MEE was diagnosed using tympanometry at age 1, 2 and 3 years. Information regarding VT from age 0-3 years was obtained from national registries. We assessed age at achievement of gross motor milestones from birth, language scores at 1 and 2 years, cognitive score at 2.5 years and general development score at age 3 years using standardized quantitative tests. Results Children with MEE had a lower 1-year word production vs. children with no disease: (median 2, IQR [0-6] vs. 4, IQR [1-7]; p = 0.017), and a lower 1-year word comprehension (median 36; IQR [21-63] vs. 47, IQR [27-84]; p = 0.03). Children with VT had a lower 2-5-year cognitive score vs. children with no disease; estimate -2.34; 95% CI [-4.56;-0.12]; p = 0.039. No differences were found between children with vs. without middle ear disease regarding age at achievement of gross motor milestones, word production at 2 years or the general developmental score at 3 years. Conclusion Our study supports the previous findings of an association between MEE and concurrent early language development, but not later neurological endpoints up to the age of 3. As VT can be a treatment of those with symptoms of delayed development, we cannot conclude whether treatment with VT had positive or negative effects on neurodevelopment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0280199
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1 January
Pages (from-to)e0280199
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2023


  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Ear Ventilation
  • Otitis Media
  • Otitis Media with Effusion/diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies


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