Ear Molding: Non-Surgical Ear Correction For Newborns
There is a one in three chance that a baby may be born with ear deformities. Majority of these are ear deformations, where the ear is misshapen, but there is no shortage of skin or cartilage. Ear malformations are more severe forms of deformities where there is a deficiency in the ear skin and cartilage, and this makes corrective surgery more complex. Children with ear malformations are more likely to have hearing impairment, as opposed to ear deformations where hearing loss is unlikely. Studies have shown that children with ear deformities are more likely to suffer from psychosocial difficulties compared to children without ear differences.
With the advent of ear molding, ear deformations and milder ear malformations are now amenable to non-surgical correction, if they can be started shortly after birth, preferably within the first week of life. Although most effective in this early newborn period, ear molding is possible up to 3 months of age. For babies who have missed the window of molding or for babies with ear malformations, surgical correction is done after 5 years of age.
What Causes Congenital Ear Deformities?
- Genetic disorders (eg Goldenhars Syndrome)
- Exposure to toxins
- An interruption of blood supply to the ear during gestational development
- Viral infections (eg Rubella)
Types of Ear Deformities
|Classification||Ear DEformations||Ear MALformations||Others|
Ear is misshapen but does not have shortage of skin or cartilage
Ear deformity with underdevelopment of skin and cartilage
Likelihood to have associated hearing loss
What is Ear Molding?
The success rate of correction in ear deformations is more than 95%, according to a ear molding study carried out by Dr Chia Hui Ling. For ear malformations, the success rate is lower.
Ear Deformities Responsive To Ear Molding
Real Life Case Studies
As my experience in ear molding increases over the years, I started ear molding for more complicated malformations, such as cryptotia. Cryptotia is a condition where the top of the ear is buried under the scalp skin. I remembered a mother bringing her baby to see me for cryptotia because she was worried that the condition will affect her child’s ability to wear spectacles. She was concerned because myopia affects every family member and she read that ear deformities may have a negative impact on his psychosocial well-being. She was glad to learn that ear molding is an effective non-surgical method to treat cryptotia. After a few weeks of ear molding, the cryptotia was successfully corrected and she expressed that she is grateful that the simple treatment took away the potential problems that her child might have faced in future.
Skin rashes and abrasions from the splint wear is a known complication. This is more common in our local hot and humid climate, but are often self-limiting and resolve within a few days. I recommend all parents to keep their babies cool in an air-conditioned environment. In a small percentage of babies, the ear deformities may not correct fully.