Otitis media with effusion (OME) is almost universal in children born with a cleft palate. Early placement of a ventilation tube to alleviate hearing problems is common. A retrospective study has been carried out to assess whether the practice of tube placement only for definite clinical indications is successful in terms of subsequent hearing levels and speech and language development. This was assessed by a case note review, analysis of speech therapy data and by means of a special follow-up clinic.
There was no difference in speech development between those treated with tube insertion for OME and those untreated. Audiological thresholds were worse in the treated group. A similar number in each group required regular speech therapy. More abnormal otological findings were present at follow up in those who had tubes inserted, some of these were directly attributable to the presence of tubes.
A conservative management of OME in cleft palate children, with tube insertion for only definite clinical indications, is an appropriate management, and will lead to fewer otological complications of tube insertion.