This page explains about hearing in babies with cleft palate and what to expect when your child comes to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
Hearing in babies with a cleft palate
Babies with cleft palates can be more likely to develop fluid in the middle ear (serous otitis media) and glue ear than other babies.
It is important that serous otitis media and glue ear are treated as these conditions can depress hearing by 20 or 30 decibels. This is enough to affect your baby’s appreciation of sounds and words, which in turn can affect his or her development of speech and language. If untreated, in the long term this may lead to chronic ear disease.
Monitoring hearing impairment
The audiological physician (doctor specialised in hearing disorders) and ear, nose and throat surgeon in the cleft team carry out this monitoring jointly. Your baby will have hearing tests in the audiology departments at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and St Andrew’s Centre, and sometimes in local hospitals or health centres.
Various tests are used to test your baby’s hearing both soon after birth and after the palate repair operation.
Serous otitis media and glue ear can come and go in phases, so treatment is usually offered if hearing tests show that your baby has some hearing impairment on two consecutive occasions. The options for treatment are:
- Wait and see – no treatment but regular monitoring continues
- Insertion of grommets – an operation to put small, plastic ventilation tubes into the eardrum. For more information about this, please see our glue ear leaflet
- Hearing aids – this is only suggested occasionally, and may only be a temporary measure
A small number of children have other conditions as well as cleft palate, which may include sensori-neural deafness (nerve deafness). Inserting grommets will not help this so hearing aids may be required.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: October 2008
Ref: 08F0722 © GOSH Trust October 2008
Compiled by the North Thames Cleft Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital and St Andrew’s Centre, Broomfield Hospital in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group at GOSH
This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.