WHAT IS CLEFT? > Effects of cleft 

Consequences of cleft lip and palate

Clefts in the area of the lip, palate and upper jaw have severe functional and social consequences for the affected person, as several vital and social-communicative functions converge in this sensitive part of the head.

In case of a cleft palate, an open connection of the mouth to the nasal cavity is the result and considerable or even life-threatening problems with suckling, drinking and swallowing can arise. Even after the closure of the cleft palate, muscles in the area of the throat can remain flaccid. The process of swallowing does not create a sufficient pressure equalisation to the middle ear. The effects are comparable to sitting in a plane during take-off and not being able to swallow to compensate for the change in pressure.

This lack of negative pressure can additionally restrict the ventilation of the middle ear, potentially leading to a chronic infection of the middle ear. The children suffer under a constant feeling of pressure in their ears and are often affected by earaches. On top of all this, the accumulation of liquid in the middle ear leads to the children hearing at a level of between 20 to 30 decibels below normal, which in turn leads to problems with learning to talk.

The dysfunctionality of the mouth and jaw area further prevent them from correctly articulating sounds and words. Additionally, psychosocial consequences for the child can be considerable if it is subjected to teasing and humiliation by peers as a result of the deformation, or if it is forced to grow up in isolation, as without help some families see no other recourse than attempting to hide their cleft child from the community.