Newborns are frequently born with misshapen ears. Only about 1/3 of newborns with misshapen ears will have the ear shape normalize on their own over time. That means 2/3 of these babies will continue to have unusual ear shapes that may require surgery in the future. Ear molds are a nonsurgical and a very effective approach to treating many ear deformities present at birth. For optimum results, we have found that the ear molds should be placed as early as possible within the first week after being born.
The most common ear shape difference that ear molds can treat are prominent ears (dumbo ears, bat ear), constricted ears (lop ear deformity, cup ear deformity), Stahl ear deformity, cryptotia and helical rim kinks. These conditions all involve an abnormal shape of the ear with no deficiency of skin and cartilage or only minor deficiencies of skin and/or cartilage. Unfortunately, molding is not possible for more severe deformities that involve major deficiencies of cartilage and skin such as microtia and severe cases of constricted ears.
Ear molding is possible due to the maternal hormones circulating through the baby's circulation immediately after delivery. These maternal hormones make the cartilage moldable. The hormones are rapidly metabolized in the first few days after delivery. Once the hormones are metabolized the ear cartilage starts to lose its ability to be molded. Studies have shown that the best results occur when the molds are applied within 48 hours after delivery, because the maternal hormones are still present. For optimum results, we have found that the ear molds should be placed in the first week after the baby is born. Ear molds can be initiated up to 4 weeks of age for certain conditions, however the later they are applied the less effective the molding is and less predictable the results are, therefore it is critical to seek a consultation as soon as you have any concerns regarding your baby's ear shape.
Various groups have reported on the success rates for ear molds. When they are initiated in the first week of life the results are uniformly good with only a small percentage of patients going on to nee surgery in the future. For those few babies who do still require surgery when they are older, the deformity has been lessened by the ear mold treatment allowing for less extensive surgery.
|TREATMENT & MANAGEMENT|
There are several medical devices and "non-medical devices" that can be used for ear molds. In general, one or more conformers (splints) are used to create the normal folds in the ear. The splints firm enough to reshape the ear cartilage but still gentle on the skin. They are held in place with either adhesive and tapes or an external appliance based upon the brand. The splints are left in place continuously (24 hours a day) for 2-3 weeks. The splints are removed and the ears are reassessed. Most patients require a second set of splints for 2-3 more weeks.
Treatment with ear molds is a painless process that is well tolerated by infants. Ear molds have a very high success rate of providing a normal ear shape for many types of ear deformity. When applied effectively, ear molds avoid the need for surgery at a later age for the majority of our patients. Again, the earlier that the ear mold treatment process begins the better the results will be. It is important to seek a consultation as soon as you develop any concerns about your baby's ear shape.