Otitis media is a common disease in childhood that can adversely affect cognitive and educational outcomes. The literature in this area is equivocal, and findings may be influenced by research design. The impact of otitis media on individual children's development appears to depend on the inter-relationship between several factors. Children who have early-onset otitis media (under 12 months) are at high risk of developing long-term speech and language problems. Otitis media has been found to interact negatively with pre-existing cognitive or language problems. For biological or environmental reasons, some populations have a pattern of early onset, higher prevalence and episodes of longer duration; this pattern leads to a higher risk of long-term speech and language problems. These factors suggest that Indigenous children may be at higher risk of cognitive and educational sequelae than non-Indigenous children.