The Impact of Tympanostomy Tubes on Speech and Language Development in Children with Cleft Palate

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Abstract

Objective

Describe the impact of hearing loss, tympanostomy tube placement before palatoplasty, and number of tubes received on speech outcomes in children with cleft palate.

Study Design

Case series with chart review.

Setting

Tertiary care children’s hospital.

Subjects and Methods

Records from 737 children born between April 2005 and April 2015 who underwent palatoplasty at a tertiary children’s hospital were reviewed. Exclusion criteria were cleft repair at an outside hospital, intact secondary palate, absence of postpalatoplasty speech evaluation, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss, no tubes, first tubes after palatoplasty, or first clinic after 12 months of age. Data from 152 patients with isolated cleft palate and 166 patients with cleft lip and palate were analyzed using Wilcoxon rank-sum, χ2, and Fisher exact test and logistic regression.

Results

Most patients (242, 76.1%) received tubes before palatoplasty. Hearing loss after tubes, but not before, was associated with speech/language delays at 24 months (P = .005) and language delays (P = .048) and speech sound production disorders (SSPDs, P = .040) at 5 years. Receiving tubes before palatoplasty was associated with failed newborn hearing screen (P = .001) and younger age at first posttubes type B tympanogram with normal canal volume (P = .015). Hearing loss after tubes (P = .021), language delays (P = .025), SSPDs (P = .003), and velopharyngeal insufficiency (P = .032) at 5 years and speech surgery (P = .022) were associated with more tubes.

Conclusion

Continued middle ear disease, reflected by hearing loss and multiple tubes, may impair speech and language development. Inserting tubes before palatoplasty did not mitigate these impairments better than later tube placement.

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