Analysis of routine hospital statistics confirms anecdotal reports of an epidemic of surgery for glue ear. The surgical rate rose by 74% in Oxford Region between 1975 and 1981. The peak ages for surgery are 5-7 years, and the rates are higher in boys than in girls (1.4:1.00). The relative risk is high in social class I (1.16) and low in social class V (0.61). Although the prevalence of glue ear is hard to ascertain, the current surgical epidemic probably reflects an increase in apparent prevalence rather than a real increase in morbidity.