In an effort to establish the diagnostic value of otoscopy, tympanometry, and the middle ear (ME) muscle reflex in the identification of otitis media with effusion (OME), the diagnostic findings by these three methods were compared with the findings at myringotomy in 333 children (500 ears). The study showed that even experienced clinicians had some difficulty in identifying those ears with effusion (sensitivity) and had even greater difficulty in making a diagnosis of those ears without an effusion (specificity). However, tympanometry, employing patterns that have been validated with myringotomy findings, was found to be more accurate. On the other hand, assessment of the ME muscle reflex as a diagnostic method was unacceptable due to an extremely low specificity (52%). An algorithm derived from the combination of the three methods had highest sensitivity (97%) and specificity (90%).