I have one child in each "category". 3 yo DD has had one naturally burst ear drum. She has had 4 or 5 ear infections, twice treated with antibiotics and 3 times the liquid cleared by itself. The liquid itself is thin, not glue. She has never had drains. Her speech is fantastic.
5 yo DS has had countless ear infections. He has constantly had some liquid in his ears, and it never being dry enough is a problem. They have never cleared up in good weather and on the rare occasions that antibiotics work, two weeks later he has liquid again. Often the liquid is thick glue, which has severely affected his speech. (Imagine listening to someone while under water- that is a mild ear infection; now imagine that water is pea soup. How well would you hear various sounds? If you were vey young and your speech was just developing, and you never had an opportunity to learn those sounds because you never heard them, how well would you speak?) DS has had 6 sets of ear drains, starting at age 2. He is now on the titanium drains, which generally stay in the ear longer, so he now has much longer periods of natural hearing. Drains is the best thing we have ever done; I just wish I had insisted earlier. When they are in, his speech catches up with his peers. I would say at this point his speech is slightly lower than his peers, though not by much.
DH's family has a history of ear infections. DH and his brothers both have had multiple infections as children. His brother's three kids have all had drains, one of them had permanent drains and recently had her eardrums replaced.