Twenty-four children with Down syndrome, aged six to 14 years, were tested with audiometry six to nine weeks after insertion of tympanostomy tubes for bilateral secretory otitis media (SOM). There was no improvement in hearing in 40 per cent of ears, compared with only 9 per cent of ears in 21 age-matched controls with bilateral SOM. Tympanostomy tubes for SOM in children with Down syndrome have a high short-term failure rate, which should be explained to the parents before insertion, and the children should have audiometry tests shortly after the operation. Persistent hearing-loss may require the fitting of hearing aids. Management should involve ensuring that the children are in a situation in which they can hear as well as possible, and making allowances for the hearing impairment.