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Audiological findings in cleft palate patients attending speech camp.

Background & objectives : Hearing impairment is one of the associated problems seen particularly in children with cleft palate rather than cleft lip alone. This has received very little attention in the area of cleft care although research shows that hearing impairment affects language development The present study was carried not to find out the type and pattern of audiogram in cases attending a speech camp, average degree of hearing loss and its relation to the side of cleft, and the acoustic immittance findings and its relation to the otological evaluation. The parental awareness about the hearing problem was also assessed.

Methods : The study was conducted on cleft palate patients attending a speech camp. In all, there were 43 patients (19 males and 24 females) in the age range of 3-22 yr. All had undergone audiological assessment, speech and language evaluation, and otological evaluation using standard procedures.

Results : Hearing loss was seen in 38 (88.38%) patients. It was the first audiological assessments they ever had. The average pure tone Thresholds revealed a reverse-ski pattern with a wide air-bone gap. The degree of hearing loss ranged from 25 to 68 dB indicating that untreated otitis media resulted in moderate to moderately severe degree of hearing loss. The immittance findings supported the extent of extracranial complications identified on otoscopic examination. There were more patients with unilateral cleft of the left side with greater hearing loss in the ear alongside the cleft.

Interpretation & conclusion : Hearing loss is prevalent in more than three-forth of the patients attending the speech camp. There is a need for early identification and intervention of middle ear effusion for all cleft palate cases.

Key words Audiogram--cleft palate--hearing impairment--immittance--pure--tone threshold--speech camp


Cleft lip and palate is one of the common conditions referred to a speech and hearing clinic. Cleft of the lip, palate or both has a birth prevalence rate ranging from 1/1000 to 2.69/1000 amongst different parts of the worlds. Asians are at highest risk than Caucasians or blacks. The sex distribution shows a tendency of males being more affected than females. The ratio of unilateral primary and secondary cleft to bilateral clefts is 2:1. Among unilateral clefts, left side cleft is reported to be more common than right side cleft (1-3). It is a congenital condition and is said to occur during the first 12 wk of gestation. Hearing impairment is one of the associated problems seen particularly in children with cleft palate rather than cleft lip alone.

The part of the ear, which is usually, affected in a child with cleft palate is the middle ear. In general, 100 per cent of the children by age seven must have suffered from atleast one episode of otitis media/middle ear effusion (4). Usually by age 6 or 7 yr, as anatomical development of the face takes place superior-inferiorly, the Eustachian tube assumes a diagonal shape from its horizontal shape, observed in infancy. With change in shape, infection from the throat does not have a direct access. Thus the problem of middle ear infection and blocked Eustachian tube tends to decrease with age. Cleft palate is one of the high risk factors for otitis media. The incidence in such children is as high as 100 per cent (5,6). This condition, known as middle ear effusion continues to exist for several years if left untreated.

Common complications associated with otitis media are more insidious in nature. The complications may be extracranial/intracranial. The degree of hearing loss is directly proportional to the amount of fluid present. The average hearing loss ranges from 15 to 45 decibel hearing level (dB HL). Sensori-neural hearing loss may also result due to inflammatory toxins diffusing through the round and oval window membranes resulting in serous labyrinthitis/organ of corti damage (7).

Little attention has been paid to the implication of otologic histories in individuals with cleft palate, although hearing impairment affects the overall development of a child. We therefore undertook this study to find out or investigate the type and pattern of audiogram in cleft lip and palate subjects attending a speech camp, the average degree of hearing loss and its relation to the side of cleft and to assess the acoustic immitance findings and compare its relation to the otological evaluation. The parents were also assessed for their awareness about heating problem in their children.

Material & Methods

Subjects: The subjects included in this study were children and adults who attended the speech camp "Cleft Palate to Clear Speech" organized at Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Southern Regional Centre (AYJNIHH, SRC), Secunderabad, in collaboration with the Department of Plastic Surgery, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, and Reconstructive Surgery Foundation--Earthspeak, U.S.A. In this camp, pre- and post-operative assessment of speech, the surgical intervention and need for second surgery were decided for these subjects. The children who could benefit from speech therapy were trained using the corrective babbling approach (8) for a period of one week.

A total of 43 patients reported at the camp held from September 13-24, 2004. Of these, 19 were males and 24 were female patients. The age range for male patients was 4 to 22 yr with a mean age of 12.6 [+ or -] 5.34 yr. The female patients were between the ages 3 to 22 yr with a mean age of 10.44 [+ or -] 4.64 yr. The patients were further classified using the Nagpur classification (9). There were in all 38 patients with group III cleft, 4 with group II cleft and one with group I cleft. All the patients had surgical treatment and correction at NIMS, Hyderabad.

Hearing assessment was done on all subjects using the following:

(i) Pure Tone Audiometer, Orbiter 922 (Madsen, Denmark) with TDH 39 earphone with MX 41/AR cushions and oticon Bone Conduction vibrator was used. The Pure tone audiometry was used to determine hearing thresholds for pure tone stimuli for each ear.

(ii) Immittance Audiometer, Amplied 750 (Amplied, Italy)-Immittance audiometer with TDH 49 earphone, 226 Hz probe tone frequency, was used to evaluate the middle ear function of each ear of the clients. It was used as a crosscheck test to confirm the provisional diagnosis made using the pure tone audiometry. It also served to compare the findings with that of the otological evaluation.

(iii) Otoscope Welch--Allyn Pocket Scope (Germany) was used.

All the audiological tests were conducted in a sound field room with ambient noise levels conforming to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (10). The speech & language evaluation and ear nose throat evaluation were carried out in cubicles, which were relatively quiet and free from distractions.

The instruments used for the audiological evaluation were calibrated with 2230 Sound Level Meter with, 1625 octava filter set, 4151 Artificial ear and 4930 Artificial Mastaid (Bruel & Kjaer, Denmark)

Assessment procedure :

(i) Audiological assessment: Pure tone audiometry was administered on all the subjects using the standard procedure (11). The thresholds obtained by air conduction (AC) and bone conduction (BC) were plotted on an audiogram sheet. The pure tone average (PTA) was calculated for each ear. Next the immittance test battery comprising of tympanogram and acoustic reflex threshold were obtained in each ear separately for each patient. The results of immittance test and pure tone audiometry were used to arrive at the provisional diagnosis.

To arrive at the type and degree of hearing loss standard classification was used (12). The immittance test results were also interpreted using standard method for classification of tympanograms (13).

(ii) Speech and language assessment: The core components of the speech and language assessment included; (a) Case history: prenatal, perinatal and postnatal history including feeding problems and motor milestones, surgical history, associated medical conditions, dentition and educational history; (b) Physical examination: oro-facial examination; (c) Perceptual evaluation: articulation, nasality, compensatory articulation such as glottalization, nasal grimaces, palatalization and pharyngeal fricatives; and (d) Rating of speech intelligibility: known/unknown context.

(iii) ENT evaluation: Otoscopic examination was done for each patient by an experienced ENT specialist.


The averaged of the air conduction (AC) and bone conduction (BC) thresholds of right and left ears, obtained for the frequencies 250, 500Hz, and 1, 2, and 4KHz are shown in Fig. 1 and 2. The mean of the average pure tone thresholds showed a reverse--ski pattern for air conduction threshold with an air bone gap which is the typical audiometric pattern seen in cases with middle ear effusion. The type of hearing loss generally found in both male and female cases was conductive type of heating loss. The PTA was 30 dBHL for right ear and 34 dBHL for the left ear in male cases. In case of the females, the PTA was 23 and 31 dBHL for right and left ear respectively.


Table I shows AC and BC thresholds for right and left ears in male and female cases. The PTA range of the individual cases (N = 43) was also determined. The PTA range in the fight ear was 25 to 68.03 dB and in the left ear it was 25 to 61.06 dB.

Five cases had hearing within normal limits in both ears, 10 had asymmetrical hearing loss with normal hearing in one ear and conductive hearing loss in the other, 25 cases had bilateral conductive heating loss and 2 had asymmetrical heating loss with conductive heating loss in one ear and mixed hearing loss in the other. One case was found having bilateral mixed hearing loss (Table II). Overall, 38 (88.4%) cases had hearing impairment.


Table III shows the tympanogram patterns seen in each ear of the cases and the probable middle ear pathology indicated by the tympanometric pattern (N = 43, number of ears =71). ENT evolution results of both the ears of cases (N=86) showed that 29 ears each had retracted tympanic membrane (TM) and impacted was respectively, 10 had Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM), 8, 4 and 6 had ear discharge, otomycosis and NAD respectively.

Of the 43 cases, 26 (60.5%) reported with unilateral clefts and 17 (39.54%) had bilateral clefts (Table IV). The mean age of the first surgery of lip and/or palatal being 2.7 yr and 5.0 yr respectively (Table V).


The case history information of cases revealed that most of the parents/caregivers accompanying the cases were unaware of the hearing problems in their child/ward. Most/all of them attended the speech therapy for the first time during this camp. The reasons for not attending speech therapy earlier may be attributed to lack of motivation/availability of facility and financial problems.

The audiometric findings supported the earlier reports (5,15) that heating impairment is one of the associated problems seen in children with cleft palate. The average degree of hearing loss ranged from minimal conductive hearing loss to moderately severe conductive hearing loss. This supported the case history findings that, due to lack of parental awareness, middle ear effusion has remained untreated resulting in mild to moderately severe degree of hearing loss. Extracranial complications were also evident in the cases seen at the camp. Audiological findings and ENT diagnosis supported earlier report (7).

In this study also unilateral cleft palate was more common than bilateral cleft palate which co-related with the earlier survey reports (1-3).

The PTA was higher in the left ear in both males and females i.e., 34 and 31dBHL respectively when compared to the right ear, which was 30 and 24dBHL in male and female cases respectively. This showed that the heating loss was greater in the ear alongside the cleft similar to the earlier report (2).

The type of tympanogram findings in the cases attending the speech camp revealed that 63.38 per cent had B-type tympanogram, indicative of middle ear effusion/ wax/ear discharge which supported the earlier report (14). The otological evaluation conducted on the cases seen in the speech camp revealed that 88.38 per cent of the patients were diagnosed as having wax/CSOM/ear discharge/ retracted tympanic membrane. The observation supported the relationship between the muscles of the soft palate at the posterior end of the oral cavity and the muscles of the Eustachian tube. Because of the cleft palate these groups of muscles fail to function appropriately thereby, affecting the ventilation and drainage through the Eustachian tube, which in turn results in middle ear effusion. There is evidence indicating that the Eustachian tube function improves with surgical closure of the palate and with age (6).

There is an urgent need to document the otological and audiological findings in the Indian craniofacial anomalies Register as the effects of conductive heating loss on the auditory comprehension skills is evident in the literature. This issue may be tackled by making audiological assessment and otological diagnosis as a prerequisite for cases scheduled for surgery. The CLP team may have to take the initiative to make timely reference, in order to carry out early identification and early intervention of middle ear effusion in these children.


The authors thank Dr D. Mukunda Reddy, Head, Department of Plastic Surgery, Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, and the Director, Ali Yaver Jung National Institute for the Heating Handicapped (AYJNIHH), Mumbai, for the support and suggestions.

Received December 1, 2005


(1.) Mcleod NMH, Arana-Urioste ML, Saeed NR. Birth Prevalence of cleft lip and palate in sucre, Bolivia. Cleft Palate Craniofac J 2004; 41 : 195-8.

(2.) Oliver-Padilla G, Martinez-Gonzalez V. Cleft lip and palate in Puerto Rico: A thirty-three year study. Cleft Palate J 1986; 23 : 48-57.

(3.) UK Craniofacial Anomalies Register (CARE). Available at http:/ / (Accessed in September 2004).

(4.) Klein JO, Tele DW, Palton SI. New concepts in otitis media: results of the greater Boston study group. Adv Pediatr 1921; 39 : 1237-63.

(5.) Paradise JL, Smith CG, Bluestone CD. Tympanometric detection of middle ear effusion in infants and young children. Pediatrics 1976; 58 : 198-210.

(6.) Mac Donald SK. Hearing and behaviour in the child with cleft palate, http://www. 4.html (Accessed on November 22, 2004).

(7.) Martin FN, Clark JG. Hearing care for children. Allyn & Bacon: Boston, 1996.

(8.) Jobe LA, Jobe PR. Speech training manual--A speech training tool for children and adults with surgically corrected cleft lip/ palate, Unpublished Manual, California, 2000.

(9.) Kale SM. History of Nagpur plastic, reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery unit: 1st Plastic surgery department in India. Indian J Plast Surg 2003; 36 : 134-7.

(10.) American National Standard Institute (ANSI S3.1, 1977)--American National Standard Criteria for permissible ambient noise during andiometric testing. In : Rintelmann W, editor. Hearing assessment, 2nd edition. USA Allyn and Bacon; 1991 p. 1-38.

(11.) Hughson W, Westlake HD. Manual for program outline for rehabilitation of aural casualties both military and civilian. Trans Am Acad Opthamol Otolaryngol 1944; 48 : 3-15.

(12.) Goodman A. Reference zero levels for pure tone audiometer. ASHA 1965; 7 : 263-73.

(13.) Jerger J. Clinical experiences with impedance audiometry. Archs Otolaryngol 1970; 92 : 311-25.

(14.) Katz J. Hand book of clinical audiology: Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1994.

(15.) Goudy S, Lott D, Canady J, Smith R J, Conductive heating loss and otopathology in cleft palate patients. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2006; 134 : 946-8.

Reprint requests: Dr Joan D' Mello, Reader & Assistant Director, Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Southern Regional Centre (Ayjnihh, SRC), Secunderabad 500009, India e-mail:

Joan D'Mello & Sanjay Kumar

Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Southern Regional Centre, (Ayjnihh, SRC)

Secunderabad, India
Table 1. Means of air conduction and bone conduction (AC, BC)
thresholds(dBHL) and pure tone average (PTA) obtained for male and
female cases

Frequency Male (N =19)
 Air Bone
 conduction conduction
 thresholds thresholds

 Right ear Left ear Common

250 33.68 38.95 9.47
500 34.74 39.47 7.63
1000 30.00 33.16 9.47
2000 25.26 28.95 10.52
4000 27.63 37.89 13.68
(PTA) 30.00 15.84

Frequency Female (N=24)
 Air Bone
 conduction conduction
 thresholds thresholds

 Right ear Left ear Common

250 27.71 35.21 10
500 27.92 35.21 10.2
1000 22.92 30.83 8.33
2000 19.79 27.50 10.62
4000 20.21 27.92 12.5
(PTA) 16.31 23.42

The audiometry was carried out after the ENT evaluation and removal
of the wax

Table II. Type of hearing loss seen with different groups of cleft
palate patients


Groups of Hearing Bilateral
cleft within conductive
palate (N) normal limits Hearing loss

I (1) -- 1
II (4) -- 3
III (38) 5 21
Total (43) 5 25


 Asymmetrical hearing loss
Groups of Mixed hearing
cleft Normal + Conductive+ loss
palate (N) conductive mixed

I (1) -- -- --
II (4) 1 -- --
III (38) 9 2 1
Total (43) 10 2 1

Patients were divided in groups I to III based an information
available in Ref. 9.

Table III. Immittance audiometric findings in cleft palate cases

 No. (%)
 Tympanograms of ears Possible pathology (13)
 types (14)

 A 14 (19.72) No significant middle ear pathology
 As 05 (7.04) Ossicular fixation
 Ad 01 (1.40) Ossicular discontinuity
 B 45 (63.38) Middle ear effusion, ear discharge, wax
 C 03 (4.23) ET dysfunction
 Cs 03 (4.23) Ossicular fixation + ET dysfunction
Ears tested 71

All 86 ears not tested

Table IV. Distribution of types of cleft cases seen in both genders

Types of Gender Total Percentage
 Male Female

* Unilateral 12 14 26 60.46
Bilateral 7 10 17 39.54
Total 19 24 43

* Unilateral cleft of palate (Right 03 cases, Left 14 cases,
Information not available--09 cases)

Table V. Distribution of cleft palate cases for the first lip
and palate surgery

 (N = 32)

(N) Mean Mean age
 chronological of surgery
 age (yr) Gender (yr)

1st lip 11.42 Male 2.11
surgery (32) 9.01 Female 2.20
1st surgery 11.02 Male 4.11
of the palate (43) 10.87 Female 5.11

 (N = 32)

Surgeries Mean Mean
(N) chronological age of
 age (yr) for surgery (yr) for
 both sexes both genders

1st lip 10.44 2.70
surgery (32)
1st surgery 10.94 Approx.
of the palate (43) 5.00

* For 11 cases the first surgery details were not available
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Article Details
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Author:D'Mello, Joan; Kumar, Sanjay
Publication:Indian Journal of Medical Research
Article Type:Clinical report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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