Normal Velopharyngeal Function
To understand velopharyngeal dysfunction, you need to first understand normal velopharyngeal function for speech.
Figure 1 shows the structures of the roof of the mouth. These are the hard palate and the soft palate (also called the velum).
The velopharyngeal valve is very important for normal speech production. This valve is made up of the following structures:
- Velum (also called soft palate)
- Lateral pharyngeal walls – the side walls of the throat
- Posterior pharyngeal wall – the back wall of the throat
Figure 2 shows the velum resting against the back of the tongue for nasal breathing. This allows the air that is inhaled through the nose to go through the throat (pharynx) to the lungs and back up again.
Figure 3 shows how the velum closes against the back wall of the throat during speech. The side walls close against the velum so that all of these come together as a valve. When the velopharyngeal valve closes, the air and sound are sent into the mouth for speech.
Figure 1. Anatomy of the oral cavity
Figure 2. Velum during nasal breathing
Figure 3. Velum during speech
Figure 4. Velopharyngeal insufficiency (the velum is too short for closure)
Figure 5. Adenoids in the pharynx (throat)
Figure 6. Velopharyngeal incompetence (the velum doesn’t move well enough for closure)
Kummer AW. (2014). Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies: Effects on Speech and Resonance, 3rd Edition. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage.