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Are Ear Infections Genetic?

My 10 month old son is recovering from his second ear infection.  I have heard from others that having "bad ears" is genetic and I should expect to have tubes put in his ears in the future.  Are ear infections genetic and what is your theory and practice with tubes in the ears?

In practice, ear infections and the need for ear tubes seems to run in certain families. The major factors that increase an individuals likelihood for developing ear infections also seem to run in families (ie. allergies, daycare, and smoking).

Is there a genetic component or is is all environment?

Dr. Margeretha Casselbrant of the University of Pittsburgh led a research study to examine just this question. Their study called “The Heritability of Otitis Media” was a twin and triple study published in JAMA. It compared the rate of ear infections (otitis media) in identical and fraternal twins and triplets. The study confirmed that there was a indeed genetic predisposition to ear infections.

I certainly would not recommend a child get ear tubes placed after a second ear infection. There are exceptions to this rule. I have seen a few families where two first two children had multiple ear infections and their third child never developed an ear infection.


Written November 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician


 is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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