The authors have investigated the thesis that intermittent hearing impairment due to middle ear disease in the early years of life results in a central auditory disturbance which may persist in adulthood. The concept that, during the speech development years, auditory disturbances interfere with the normal maturation of central auditory processing appear to be clearly established.

Thirty-five children, free of active ear disease and normally hearing by standard peripheral audiometry, are the basis for the study. The monotic tests employing temporal and frequency distortion and the dichotic challenges of competing stimuli and central integration provide the test data.

Approximately 75% of the study group fail at least 1 segment of the battery, beyond 2 standard deviations from the normal data. A decreasing percentage of the study group exceed the normative values in 2 or more of the test components.

In view of these data on aggressive program of auditory conservation is suggested during the early years of life.