A child can be born with any of a number of types of ear anomalies (congenital). These can be divided into two major groups based on how they’re treated. Ear malformations occur when elements of the ear are missing. These conditions generally require surgery to correct them later in life.
With ear deformities, however, all parts of the ear are present, but they can be abnormally shaped or positioned, or they may have abnormal folds. Some cases may correct themselves over time, but others may not. Ear deformities can be corrected nonsurgically during infancy using ear molding.
At PNW Plastic Surgery in Portland, Oregon, board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Leo Urbinelli specializes in pediatric cases. For children born with ear deformities, he generally recommends ear molding as early as possible to correct the problem without surgery.
All newborns are perfect just by virtue of being born. However, sometimes newborns emerge with ears that, for one reason or another, are unusually shaped. Ear molding is a treatment used during infancy to reshape, or mold, deformed ears into a more typical shape.
Ear molding can be used for a variety of congenital ear deformities, with excellent results. Some issues ear molding can correct include:
Ear molding works best while the infant is in its first few weeks, when the ears are soft and pliable. The pliability results from containing very high levels of maternal estrogen. By the age of six weeks, maternal estrogen levels fall off, and the ears become more rigid. This makes early intervention with ear molding very important, and it can help prevent surgery later in life.
As some ear deformities resolve on their own, you should closely monitor your child for the first 7-10 days after they’re born. If the shape/deformity doesn’t improve, your pediatrician may recommend nonsurgical ear molding as the best treatment approach.
Ear molding employs a combination of commercially available ear molding devices and orthodontic molding materials to change the shape of the ear.
We fit a malleable plastic splint under the helix of your infant’s ear, held in place with liquid adhesive, tape, and/or molding material. Your baby will wear the ear molds 24/7 until the treatment is complete. Treatment time usually takes about six to eight weeks, but it can be less.
After two weeks, we examine the ear to note any progress. If the deformity hasn’t been corrected at that time, we apply a new device and repeat the process every two weeks until we see noticeable and acceptable change.
If your child is born with unusually shaped or deformed ears, the time to discuss it with your doctor is within the first week. That way, ear molding treatment can begin early, when the ears are still pliable enough to respond. You can then schedule an appointment with Dr. Urbinelli at PNW Plastic Surgery to get the process underway. Give us a call at 503-208-2348, or book online today.