Dichotic listening performance was studied in children who at an early age had undergone a myringotomy with insertion of ventilating tubes for persistent middle ear infections (otitis media with effusion; OME) and compared with age-equivalent children who had no history of otitis media or hearing problems. The OME group consisted of 19 children with a median age of 9 years; 15 of whom were right-handed, and 14 were boys. The comparison sample comprised 18 children with a median age was 9 years 4 months. Hand preference and sex were matched with the OME group. Both groups were tested with dichotic listening to consonant–vowel syllables and additional forced-attention tasks. The comparison sample showed a weak right-ear advantage, and age-adequate attentional modulations. The children in the OME group showed a strong right-ear advantage, but were not able to modulate the ear advantage during directed-attention tasks. Models for interpreting the result are discussed.