(HealthDay News) – Children with aural atresia, a congenital condition resulting in ear abnormalities and hearing loss, are at greater risk of speech and learning difficulties if they have unilateral disease compared with bilateral disease, according to a record review published online July 18 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Daniel R. Jensen, MD, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 74 children with aural atresia to examine their risk of speech and learning problems. Of these, 48 had right-sided disease, 19 had left-sided disease, and seven had bilateral disease.

The researchers found that speech therapy was common, at 86% for children with bilateral disease and 43% for children with unilateral disease. Children with right-sided disease were significantly more likely to report school problems than children with left-sided disease or bilateral disease (31% vs. 11% vs. 0%). All three groups received educational intervention (ranging from 21–43% of children). Children with bilateral disease who received additional intervention attended schools for the hearing impaired and had no identified learning deficiencies.

“Children with unilateral aural atresia may be at greater risk of speech and learning difficulties than previously appreciated, similar to children with unilateral sensorineural hearing loss,” Jensen and colleagues conclude.

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