Newborn Ear Molding
What is Newborn Ear Molding?
If parents and pediatricians are fortunate enough to identify an ear deformity within the baby’s first week(s) of life, then a non-surgical treatment option is available called ear molding. This solution entails applying customized molds to the infant’s ear and maintaining a normal ear shape for 4-6 weeks.
Ear molding takes advantage of a narrow window in which the ear cartilage is malleable and has not yet gained “memory.” Cartilage “memory” is the reason a child or adult can fold their ear and expect it to spring back to the original shape when released. By the end of treatment, the cartilage has gained “memory” of its new shape, which it maintains from then on.
What does ear molding entail?
Roughly 1/3 of ear deformities begin to resolve in the first week of life without treatment. Accordingly, we prefer to reevaluate at 1 week of age. If no resolution is evident, then we begin 4-6 weeks of ear molding. A ring of hair around the patient’s ear is shaved to allow an adhesive cradle to be taped to the skin around the ear. Molding components are then tailored to your child’s ear to generate a natural shape. The device is kept in place for 1-2 weeks, and then exchanged at a follow-up visit. After 4-6 weeks of treatment, the ear cartilage develops “memory” of its new shape, and treatment is finished.
Is your infant a candidate for ear molding?
The key to effective ear molding is to start treatment early, and specifically, in the first 2 weeks of life. After that time frame, the ear cartilage gradually loses its malleability, and becomes harder to mold. Various types of ear deformities exist, and ear molding is effective for most of them. Common examples include prominent ears (referred to as ‘Dumbo ears’), Stahl’s ear (‘Spock ear’), lop ear, constricted ear (or ‘cup ear’), and cryptotia. If your infant’s ears lack a normal shape and form, which persists beyond a week, then he or she is a candidate for ear molding. Research confirms that if molding is started within the first 2 weeks of life, 90% of patients achieve a good to excellent result.
Historically, few reliable options existed for treatment at birth, and the strategy taught in medical schools was to wait until the child began school and see whether he or she is teased or feels self- conscious. The public’s descriptions of ear deformities are based largely upon teasing words, such as “spock ears,” “elf ears,” or “dumbo ears.”
Parents of older children who fit that description should know that surgical correction remains an excellent option. Ear shaping surgery is usually delayed until kindergarten age. This allows correction prior to starting 1st grade, and allows the ears to nearly reach adult size.
Why choose Wellspring for ear molding?
At Wellspring, we are uniquely positioned to serve your child relative to other practices across the country. Dr. Steve Byrd, the pioneer of modern ear molding, was a long-time partner with Dr. Hobar and a mentor for Dr. Cone. Having worked alongside the best, our surgeons are among the most experienced in the procedure.