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Medical management of middle ear disease in children less than 2 years of age with sensorineural hearing loss.

OBJECTIVE: With emerging early hearing detection and communication development programs, physicians are increasingly requested to review young children with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and associated conductive hearing loss (CHL). The purpose of this critical review is to develop an evidence-based approach to the management of the child less than 2 years of age with fluctuating CHL and coexisting SNHL.

METHODS: A critical review of the 1966-2002 MEDLINE database was performed to address the diagnosis, natural history, and management of otitis media with effusion (OME) and the management of acute otitis media (AOM) in the child under 2 years of age with underlying SNHL.

RESULTS: Pneumatic otoscopy should be used to diagnose middle ear effusion. Clearance of OME may be prolonged in children with craniofacial abnormalities. Antibiotics provide a small short-term increase in the resolution of OME and may be warranted in children with coexisting SNHL and OME for 4 to 6 weeks. If OME persists for 8 to 12 weeks, bilateral myringotomy and tube placement (BM&T) with short-term tubes will improve hearing and help resolve OME. AOM in children less than 2 years of age should be treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics. Prophylactic antibiotics may be useful in avoiding tube placement in children less than 2 years of age with recurrent AOM. BM&T with short-term tubes are recommended if recurrent AOM persists. Pneumococcal vaccination can decrease episodes of AOM by 6 to 7%.

CONCLUSIONS: An evidence-based algorithm for the management of fluctuating CHL in children less than 2 years of age with an underlying SNHL is presented.

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