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Houston Cranio Facial

How Can I Improve a Speech Impediment Caused By a Cleft?

Speech problems caused by a cleft can be successfully treated with both surgical intervention and non-surgical therapies. A cleft lip and/or palate are among the most common congenital defects in the world, with as many as 1 in 1,600 babies in the U.S. born with a cleft. While this condition is often corrected as a child with cleft lip and palate repair, adults who previously had a facial cleft can face a number of difficulties throughout their daily life that range from dental and breathing-related concerns to speech and language issues. A speech impediment is one such complication commonly left from a repaired cleft, sometimes causing communication struggles and a lack of confidence for adults when speaking.

If you have trouble speaking clearly, there are a range of treatments that can help resolve speech concerns and allow others to understand you more easily. A consultation with our craniofacial plastic surgeon, Eric Payne, MD, is necessary to shed light on the mechanisms causing your speech impediment so Dr. Payne can develop an effective treatment plan to treat the issue(s) at hand. Based on your needs, treatment may include:

  • Speech therapy: Regular sessions with a speech and language pathologist can help you better understand your speech patterns and identify any abnormalities. This type of therapy can also be utilized post-operatively to help patients retrain their facial muscles and achieve improved speech.
  • Surgery to treat velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI): In some cases, a condition known as VPI may be causing hypernasality and speech difficulties. This is caused by poor closure of the throat, leading to an inability to separate the nose from the mouth. VPI can be corrected with a surgical procedure to narrow the throat’s velopharyngeal valve and achieve proper closure.

Speech problems can be very complex for patients who have had a cleft. These issues can include articulation errors or difficulty with resonance, causing hypernasality or hyponasality of a person’s speech. It can sometimes be even more complicated when both resonance issues occur at the same time. A speech language pathologist evaluation along with a consultation and exam with Dr. Payne can help determine the true underlying issues causing a speech disorder.

We understand you probably have questions about the different concerns that can emanate from a congenital facial cleft. Dr. Payne works closely with a Speech Language Pathologist who will help develop a treatment plan after an evaluation. Please don’t hesitate to contact The Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery Center of Houston to consult with Dr. Payne personally, or for more information about our services.