Panel 6: Otitis media and associated hearing loss among disadvantaged populations and low to middle-income countries

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2020 Mar;130 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):109857. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2019.109857. Epub 2020 Jan 21.


Objective:: Summarise the published evidence on otitis media and associated hearing loss in low to middle-income countries (LMIC) and disadvantaged populations.

Data sources:: PubMed and other databases.

Review methods:: Firstly, sensitive search strategy using ‘otitis media’, combined with specific key words for each topic of the review, from January 2015 to June 2019. Then, restriction to LMIC and disadvantaged populations. Topics covered included prevention, epidemiology, risk factors, microbiology, prognosis, diagnosis, and treatment.

Conclusions:: There was a high degree of methodological heterogeneity and high risk of bias. The majority of studies were school-based. In Africa, Asia and Oceania (e.g., Australian Aboriginal populations) the prevalence of OM was respectively 8% (range 3–16%), 14% (range 7–22%) and 50% (4–95%). Prevalence of any hearing loss in these regions was 12% (range 8–17%), 12% (range 3–24%), and 26% (range 25–28%) respectively. Risk factors in LMIC and disadvantaged populations included age, gender, exposure to smoke and pollution. Microbiology was reported for otitis media with effusion at time of surgery or ear discharge (acute otitis media with perforation or chronic suppurative otitis media). Specimen handling and processing in hospital laboratories was associated with low detection of S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae. Case series described complicated cases of OM due to M. tuberculosis, multidrug resistance and HIV. QOL studies identified discrimination of persons with OM and hearing loss. Diagnostic methods varied greatly, from naked eye to tympanometry. Treatment interventions were reported from four RCTs. Non-RCTs included evaluations of guidelines, surgery outcomes, access to ENTs.

Implications for Clinical Practice:: Chronic suppurative otitis media, otitis media with effusion and conductive hearing loss are common in LMIC and disadvantaged populations. Paucity of research, poor regional representation, non-standardised methods and low-quality reporting preclude accurate assessment of disease burden in LMIC and disadvantaged populations. Awareness and adherence to reporting Guidelines should be promoted.

Keywords: Aetiology; Diagnosis; Disadvantaged populations; Epidemiology; Low to middle income countries; Microbiology; Otitis media; Prognosis; Risk factors; Treatment.