Ear Infections Can Lower IQ Scores by Gabriella Visani

The difference between an IQ score of 118 and an IQ score of 185 is profound. The difference is even more profound when the children are siblings and both have characteristics that indicate they are profoundly gifted. The developmental history of the particular siblings in this case revealed that the 67-point discrepancy was likely caused by the incidence of chronic ear infections (otitis media) in one of the siblings

The girl, who achieved an IQ score of 185, had never had an ear infection, whereas her brother, who achieved an IQ score of 118, had suffered 32-48 bouts of otitis media (Silverman, 2002).  
 
Gifted Development Center has collected more information and conducted more research about ear infections in the gifted in the last 37 years than any other agency. In their first study, published 30 years ago, they discovered that 75 percent of the children who tested below the gifted range but fit the criteria for giftedness and auditory processing deficits had chronic ear infections (Silverman, Chitwood & Waters, 1986). Evaluations revealed a mean difference of 20 IQ points between those siblings who had chronic ear infections and their siblings who had not suffered from ear infections. 
 
A child’s attainment of a lower IQ score due to being plagued by otitis media is significant in two major ways. The first is the impact of ear infections on the child’s cognition and information processing. Lower IQ scores are often accompanied by underachievement; both are the result of the auditory channel being blocked during the critical period of a child’s development. When the auditory channel is blocked, left-hemispheric skills may lag behind and right-hemispheric abilities tend to flourish. As a consequence, the child’s abilities as a “visual-spatial learner,” a term coined by Dr. Linda Silverman and explored in-depth in Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner, are strengthened. The damaging effect of chronic otitis media on IQ scores is invisible in studies of children of average intelligence. This difference emerges in IQ scores of the gifted because it takes so few items to place in the gifted range. If a gifted child misses all of the auditory items on the test, his or her IQ score will be pulled down dramatically (Silverman, 1986;1996).

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