Scottish hospitals are to play a key role in a UK study to get to the bottom of the condition known as "glue ear".
It is hoped more than 300 families can be recruited to build up information on the infection, which causes fluid in the ear, through investigating DNA.
The project came about through a £15,000 award to Oxford University and the Medical Research Council mammalian genetics unit, by Deafness Research UK.
Most children will have had an an ear infection by the age of five.
Inflammation of the ear, known as otitis media, is common in youngsters and, while many recover from glue ear, some cases lead to prolonged hearing problems.
Experts know genes play a major part, but do not know exactly what causes longer-term issues.
Dr Mahmood Bhutta, an ear, nose and throat surgeon from Oxford who is leading a project into the genetic causes of ear inflammation, said: "Our study is already the largest ear, nose and throat study in the UK, but our statistical tests tell us that we really need thousands of people to take part for us to have meaningful results."
Deafness Research UK Chief Executive Vivienne Michael, added: "We are committed to funding these studies because they offer a real opportunity to better understand and ultimately treat or cure serious ear disorders, in this case one which primarily targets children."