Psychosocial outcomes of children with ear infections and hearing problems: a longitudinal study.


BACKGROUND: There is some evidence of a relationship between psychosocial health and the incidence of ear infections and hearing problems in young children. There is however little longitudinal evidence investigating this relationship. This paper used 6-year prospective longitudinal data to examine the impact of ear infection and hearing problems on psychosocial outcomes in two cohorts of children (one cohort recruited at 0/1 years and the other at 4/5 years). METHODS: Data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) were analysed to address the research aim. The LSAC follows two cohorts of children (infants aged 0/1 years – B cohort, n = 4242; and children aged 4/5 years – K cohort, n = 4169) collecting data in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. In B cohort at baseline 3.7% (n = 189) of the sample were reported by their parent to have had an ear infection (excluding hearing problems) and 0.5% (n = 26) were reported by their parent to have hearing problems (excluding ear infections). 6.7% (n = 323) of the K cohort were identified as having had an ear infection and 2.0% (n = 93) to have hearing problems. Psychosocial outcomes were measured using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Data were analysed using multivariate analysis of variance and logistic regression, reporting adjusted odds ratio and 95% confidence intervals of the association between reported ear infections (excluding hearing problems)/or hearing problems (excluding ear infections) and psychosocial outcomes. RESULTS: Children were more likely to have abnormal/borderline psychosocial outcomes at 10/11 years of age if they had been reported to have ongoing ear infections or hearing problems when they were 4/5 years old. When looking at the younger cohort however, poorer psychosocial outcomes were only documented at 6/7 years for children reported to have hearing problems at 0/1 years, not for those who were reported to have ongoing ear infections. CONCLUSION: This study adds further evidence that a relationship may exist between repeated ear infections or hearing problems and the long-term psychosocial health of children and provides support for a more systematic investigation of these issues.