Otitis media with effusion (glue ear) is the most frequent cause of deafness in children. We investigated the role of gastric juice reflux in this disease. We measured pepsin concentrations in middle ear effusions from children using ELISA and enzyme activity assays. 45 (83%) of 54 effusions contained pepsin/pepsinogen at concentrations of up to 1000-fold greater than those in serum. Our data suggest that reflux of gastric juice could be a major cause of glue ear in children.