We are all different, especially when it comes to our ears. While it is normal to have ears that are pointy, large or stick out, having a child with an ear deformity can be alarming.
“If you start looking at our ears, you might notice that we have asymmetries and things that are not quite the same even if you look at the same person,” said Dr. Brad Morrow, plastic surgeon with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “An ear deformity is something parents would notice right off because it doesn’t quite look right.”
Ear deformities typically occur in the upper third of the ear and happen during pregnancy. Causes for ear deformities include:
- A direct failure of the tissue to properly migrate during pregnancy.
- In utero positioning.
- Genetics, which is common in ears that are more prominent.
While ear deformities do not have any health implications, children getting teased is a common reason parents fix the ear.
How to fix an ear deformity
For an ear deformity, the EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System, a non-surgical device, is an option from birth to three months of age.
“If you can get the EarWell on the patient before they are three weeks old, then they might not need a surgical procedure when they are older,” Morrow said.
To attach the ear correction device, the doctor shaves some hair off the child’s head by the ear and then places the device around the ear. A doctor typically completes the procedure in 15 minutes by the bedside.
After two weeks, a doctor checks to see if the cartilage has hardened so the ear stays in place. This pattern continues until the cartilage has hardened, which typically happens by six weeks old.
“It molds the ear in the shape we want it to be in, and keeping it in place for two to six weeks allows us to keep it in the right place,” Morrow said.
Surgery is an option if the ear correction device wasn’t placed in time.
A surgeon can complete the surgery after the ear is fully grown. This is typically between 6-8 years old. The surgery does require general anesthesia and takes up to two hours depending on the type of deformity.
In cases of ear malformations where there isn’t enough skin or cartilage, the ear correction device is not an option.
For more information on treatment options for an ear deformity, talk to your child’s pediatrician.