What is an ear deformity?
An ear deformity is when some part of the ear cartilage is shaped or bent incorrectly at birth. This can cause the ear to stick out (prominent ear deformity), fold over (lidding ear deformity), be pointed (Stahl’s ear), or have any other unusual bend or kink in it. These occur in varying degrees of severity and every deformity is different and requires a customized mold to fix it.
Tell us about newborn ear molding and why more parents don’t know about this.
Ear molding has been performed for decades and started in East Asia. Newborn ear cartilage is soft from the estrogen from being in the mother’s womb. If the cartilage is reshaped and molded early after birth, it was seen that it would keep that corrected shape as the cartilage hardens.
Many parents are told that the deformity will correct on its own or that their baby will “grow into their ears.” However, we know that is not true, as studies show the vast majority will not improve with time alone. Most parents also think the only way to correct prominent ears or ear deformities is with surgery, and that is also not true. Almost all ear deformities can be successfully molded non-surgically if started within the first month after birth.
How did you start performing ear molding?
My oldest daughter, who is now 6 years old, was born with an ear deformity. I knew this could be fixed non-surgically with ear molding. I saw this done multiple times during my residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. However, it requires some special supplies and equipment, and when my wife and I looked for a physician performing ear molding in Connecticut, we couldn’t find anyone. We therefore brought her down to Philadelphia to get the molding performed there by one of my mentors. After this experience, I decided to get all the necessary equipment to perform it at my office in Trumbull, Connecticut.
We have been trying to increase awareness of this non-surgical option to reshape baby ears. We have given talks at multiple pediatrician offices. We have now treated over 100 babies and molded over 150 ears.
What is the best time to reshape a baby’s ears and fix ear deformities with ear molding?
Some very mild ear deformities will correct on their own in the first week after birth. If they haven’t corrected by then, studies show that they will stay misshapen. The earlier ear molding is started, the better the outcome. We like to start within the first 2-3 weeks after birth. However, we have successfully molded and improved some ears even when starting at 7-8 weeks old.
When does baby ear cartilage start to harden? How long do you have to mold the ears to correct them?
Baby ear cartilage starts to harden at about 6-7 weeks old. We like to start molding early and then keep it in place in the corrected shape until it starts to harden. Depending on how severe the deformity is, this is usually for 4-6 weeks.
Is ear molding painful and does it affect hearing development?
It is not painful at all and babies completely ignore them. The mold is made out of a soft medical-grade silicone that is shaped over and around the ear. It has holes in the front surface, so it has no impact on hearing development.
What happens if you don’t mold ear deformities early enough?
The ear cartilage will start to harden, making molding no longer possible. The only option would be ear surgery, known as an otoplasty. Otoplasty is usually performed around age 5 or 6 when the ear has grown closer to its adult size and before kids can be teased in school.
Does health insurance cover ear molding?
Yes, ear molding to correct prominent ear or ear deformities is covered by almost all insurance plans. It is considered a congenital deformity and not considered cosmetic. We work with all insurance companies to get approval before the first office visit, when we apply the mold.
What advice do you give to parents?
Don’t wait! Most ear deformities are completely correctable without surgery.
How can parents get more information about ear molding and your practice?
Jandali Plastic Surgery
5520 Park Ave, Suite WP-2-300
Trumbull, CT 06611