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Effects of preoperative speech therapy on the speech intelligibility of patients with velopharyngeal incompetence




Improved articulatory placement through speech therapy may eliminate compensatory errors, improve velopharyngeal function, minimize perception of hypernasality, and improve speech intelligibility.


The aim of this work was to study the effect of preoperative speech therapy on the speech intelligibility in patients with residual velopharyngeal insufficiency in order to provide a better speech outcome in such patients.

Patients and methods

This study included 41 patients diagnosed with residual velopharyngeal insufficiency after cleft palate repair. Patients were divided into two groups: group I included 22 patients scheduled to undergo speech therapy 6 months preoperatively, and group II included 19 patients who did not receive preoperative speech therapy. Both groups underwent speech therapy for 6 months postoperatively. Evaluation was carried out through auditory perceptual assessment (APA) including the type and degree of open nasality, consonant precision, compensatory articulatory mechanisms (glottal articulation and pharyngealization of fricatives), audible nasal emission of air, and overall intelligibility of speech. All these elements are graded along a five-point scale in which 0 is normal and 4 is severe affection. Documentation of APA is performed by high fidelity speech and voice audio recording and endoscopy. Formal speech intelligibility testing was carried out using the Arabic Speech Intelligibility test, which is designed to provide an estimation of the overall speech intelligibility of children by providing a total score in percentage. Nasometry was performed for all patients using a Kay nasometer, which provides the ‘nasalance score’.


On comparing the APA assessment of group I after 6 months of speech therapy postoperatively with the preoperative data, a highly significant decrease with regard to all parameters was revealed; however, in group II, the same comparison revealed a highly significant decrease as regards the degree of open nasality and nasal emission of air and a significant difference in terms of glottal articulation, pharyngealization of fricatives, and overall speech intelligibility. On comparing the two groups postoperatively, a significant difference in glottal articulation, pharyngealization of fricatives, and overall speech intelligibility, being more improved in group I, was revealed. Nasometry showed a significant difference between the postoperative results after speech therapy compared with the preoperative results, with a nonsignificant difference between the two groups postoperatively. In group I, the results of the Arabic Speech Intelligibility test showed a highly significant decrease in the number of patients with unintelligible speech and poor speech intelligibility, a significant decrease in number of patients with fair speech intelligibility, and a highly significant increase in the number of patients with good and excellent speech intelligibility. In group II, there was a significant decrease in the number of patients with unintelligible speech and poor speech intelligibility and a significant increase in the number of patients with fair, good, and excellent speech intelligibility.

Conclusion and recommendations

Speech therapy before surgery for residual velopharyngeal insufficiency can improve the results of postoperative therapy, with a better speech intelligibility outcome. Therefore, it is recommended to schedule a speech therapy program before secondary repair of the velopharyngeal valve in order to attain better speech intelligibility.


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Correspondence to Hassan H. Ghandour MD.

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Ghandour, H.H., Kaddah, FA., Abdelhamid, A. et al. Effects of preoperative speech therapy on the speech intelligibility of patients with velopharyngeal incompetence. Egypt J Otolaryngol 29, 269–276 (2013).

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  • speech intelligibility
  • speech therapy
  • velopharyngeal insufficiency