Electrophysiological assessment of auditory processing disorder in children with non-syndromic cleft lip and/or palate

PeerJ. 2016 Aug 25:4:e2383. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2383. eCollection 2016.


Objectives: Cleft lip and/or palate is a common congenital craniofacial malformation found worldwide. A frequently associated disorder is conductive hearing loss, and this disorder has been thoroughly investigated in children with non-syndromic cleft lip and/or palate (NSCL/P). However, analysis of auditory processing function is rarely reported for this population, although this issue should not be ignored since abnormal auditory cortical structures have been found in populations with cleft disorders. The present study utilized electrophysiological tests to assess the auditory status of a large group of children with NSCL/P, and investigated whether this group had less robust central auditory processing abilities compared to craniofacially normal children.

Methods: 146 children with NSCL/P who had normal peripheral hearing thresholds, and 60 craniofacially normal children aged from 6 to 15 years, were recruited. Electrophysiological tests, including auditory brainstem response (ABR), P1-N1-P2 complex, and P300 component recording, were conducted.

Results: ABR and N1 wave latencies were significantly prolonged in children with NSCL/P. An atypical developmental trend was found for long latency potentials in children with cleft compared to control group children. Children with unilateral cleft lip and palate showed a greater level of abnormal results compared with other cleft subgroups, whereas the cleft lip subgroup had the most robust responses for all tests.

Conclusion: Children with NSCL/P may have slower than normal neural transmission times between the peripheral auditory nerve and brainstem. Possible delayed development of myelination and synaptogenesis may also influence auditory processing function in this population. Present research outcomes were consistent with previous, smaller sample size, electrophysiological studies on infants and children with cleft lip/palate disorders. In view of the these findings, and reports of educational disadvantage associated with cleft disorders, further research that focuses on the auditory processing abilities of children with cleft lip/palate disorder is warranted.

Keywords: Auditory brainstem responses; Auditory processing disorder; Cleft lip; Cleft palate; School age children.

Grants and funding

This study was financially supported by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, General Research Fund (HKU773009M). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.