KidsAudiologist

Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week 2012

Posted on: May 12, 2012

Three babies are born every day with a cleft lip and/or palate, and Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week is a chance to spread the word and educate about this condition and the great work that the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) do.

Did you know that children born with a cleft palate are very likely to have difficulties with their hearing?

The most common type of hearing loss in children with cleft palate or cleft lip and palate is caused by otitis media with effusion (OME), commonly known as ‘glue ear’. Glue ear is a buildup of sticky fluid in the middle ear. For the ears to work properly the middle ear needs to be kept full of air. The Eustachian tube runs between the middle ear and the back of the nose and throat area and shares many of the muscles of the palate. The Eustachian tube opens regularly during swallowing, yawning and speaking, allowing air to be exchanged. Generally in children this tube is not as vertical and wide as it is in an adult and as a result doesn’t work as well. In children with a cleft palate there are likely to be additional structural abnormalities of the Eustachian tube and the muscles may not work as well. If the Eustachian tube doesn’t open efficiently or becomes blocked, air cannot enter the middle ear. When this happens, the cells lining the middle ear produce fluid. With fluid filling the middle ear, it becomes harder for sound to pass through to the inner ear and these sounds become more muffled.

Glue ear may not cause any problems in hearing or it may cause a mild to moderate deafness (20-60 dB) in the affected ear. For most children without a cleft palate, glue ear is a temporary condition that they grow out of by around 8 years old as their Eustachian tube and other cavities grow larger. However, almost all children with a cleft palate will get glue ear before the age of one and it may persist much longer than for other children. For this reason children should be monitored closely. Depending on the child and degree of deafness caused by the glue ear several options are available.

For further information on the types and causes of hearing loss, and managing any hearing difficulties download the NDCS booklet Cleft palate and deafness; Information for families. (Log in is required but membership is free and takes just a few minutes on-line.)

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