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Background:  The assessment of impact and evaluation of treatment effects in chronic otitis media (OM) calls for a much broader approach than just examining the presence of middle ear effusion or hearing loss. It is increasingly recognised that this condition may result in a comprised quality of life. Several studies have used proxy completed questionnaires to objectify the illness experience associated with chronic OM.

Objective of review:  To review questionnaires which have been developed to describe the effects of chronic OM on the daily functioning of children. Psychometric properties have been evaluated, in addition to discriminative and evaluative qualities.

Type of review:  A systematic review of publications pertaining to developed questionnaires related with chronic OM.

Search strategy:  Systematic literature searches of PubMed (1966–January 2007) and EMBASE (1989–January 2007) were conducted, supplemented by using free text words to identify publications after January 2005.

Results:  The included 15 questionnaires were developed for children with recurrent or persistent OM, describing functional health status (FHS), while two questionnaires also evaluate the effect of tympanostomy tubes insertion. The questionnaires generally cover six impact areas (physical symptoms, child development, educational performance, emotional/practical burden and general health status) with physical symptoms being the most prominant.

Conclusions:  The OM8-30, OMO-22 and OM-6 adequately reflect the multidimensional aspects of FHS in chronic OM. The OMO-22 and OM8-30 show the best psychometric properties for the discrimination of impact severity between children, while the OM-6 was found to have the best qualities for the evaluation of clinical change. Clinical applicability is crucial for the assessment of FHS in chronic OM, but requires a trade-off with necessary psychometric properties.