Although the palate and the ears are a long way from each other, children with a cleft palate can have a higher chance of ear infections and hearing difficulties than children without a cleft palate.
This is because of a structure called the eustachian tube. The eustachian tube allows the inside of the ear to drain any fluid out into the back of the nose. Because of the abnormal position of the muscles and tendons in children with cleft palate, the eustachian tube cannot drain the ear as well as in children without a cleft palate. This is important, as fluid collecting inside the ear can affect hearing and can lead to higher risks of middle ear infections.
For this reason, it is important for children with cleft palate to have regular hearing checks, for parents to be aware of the risk of ear infections and to take any episodes of ear pain seriously. Often, if the eustachian tube isn’t draining fluid as well as it needs to, it is necessary to relieve the fluid collection using “ear tubes,” “ventilation tubes” or “grommets,” which are small metal or plastic tubes placed across an incision in the ear drum that allow any fluid collections to drain out of the ear through the tube.