Episodes of acute otitis media are commonly associated with viral upper respiratory tract infections. Rhinoviruses account for approximately 40% of these infections, and were previously shown to alter eustachian tube function and middle ear pressures. However, progression to otitis media has not been prospectively documented. In the present study, changes in tympanometric pressures and otoscopic findings resulting from experimental intranasal rhinovirus type39 inoculation were documented in 60 adult volunteers. Fifty-seven (95%) subjects became infected and 34 (60%) of these had a clinical cold. Prior to viral inoculation, 3 (5%) subjects had middle ear pressures of less than -100 mm H2O and two of these subjects developed middle ear effusions following infection. In all, 22 (39%) subjects developed middle ear pressures of less than -100 mm H2O. No subject with normal middle ear pressures prior to infection developed evidence of effusion. This study extends the otologic manifestations of rhinovirus infection to include otitis media. Furthermore, these results support the hypothesized relationship between upper respiratory tract infections, eustachian tube dysfunction, and otitis media.