Long-Term Otologic and Audiometric Outcomes in Patients with Cleft Palate

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Describe longitudinal audiometric and otologic outcomes in patients with cleft palates.

Study Design

Case series with chart review.


Single academic medical center.


Charts of 564 patients with a diagnosis of cleft palate (59% syndromic etiology, 41% nonsyndromic) from 1998 to 2014 were reviewed. Patients without at least 1 audiometric follow-up were excluded from analysis. Patient demographics, surgeries, audiometric tests, and otologic data were recorded for 352 patients.


Forty-five percent had isolated cleft palates, 34% had unilateral cleft lip and palate, and 21% had bilateral cleft lip and palate. Patients were followed for a mean of 50.3 months with a mean of 3.2 separate audiograms performed. Patients received a mean of 2.93 pressure equalization tubes. Increased number of pressure equalization tubes was not associated with incidence of cholesteatoma, which was identified in only 4 patients. Nine patients underwent eventual tympanoplasty with an 89% closure rate. Analysis of mean air-bone gap by cleft type did not reveal significant differences (P = .08), but conductive losses and abnormal tympanometry persisted into teenage years.


Patients with cleft palates have eustachian tube dysfunction, which, in our cohort, resulted in persistent conductive hearing loss, highlighting the importance of long-term follow-up. Cholesteatoma incidence was low and not associated with number of tubes, which at our institution were placed prophylactically. Tympanoplasty was successful in those with persistent perforations.

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