What is Neonatal Ear Molding?
The optimal time to treat malformed or prominent ears is during the first few weeks of life. During this period, a baby’s ears are soft and can be guided to take on a new shape. This process can often avoid the need for a surgical procedure and may achieve results that are equal to or superior to ear surgery. Most common birth defects of the ear such as prominent ears, cryptotia, and Stahl’s ear can be treated with molding.
Who Can Undergo Ear Molding?
The period after birth when ears may be molded is short. The best results can be achieved when molding is begun in the first three weeks of life. Older infants may still undergo molding, but the process is longer and results are not as reliable. After the first few months of life, ears are no longer moldable and surgery at a later date will be needed to correct an abnormal ear shape.
What is Involved in Molding an Infant’s Ears?
Your doctor will use a soft plastic mold and medical tapes to hold the affected ear or ears in a more normal shape. Medical adhesive will be used to secure the tapes, and it is possible but not common that a small amount of hair may need to be clipped or trimmed. You will be provided tapes and adhesive to replace tapes that become loosened. Treatment will typically last 2-4 weeks in patients that begin molding in the first three weeks of life. Longer molding periods are needed to achieve lasting results in older patients.
What are the Alternatives to Ear Molding?
Patients who are too old for ear molding, still can undergo treatment for prominent or misshaped ears. A surgical procedure called an otoplasty can be performed. This procedure is performed through an incision on the back of the ear. Cartilage scoring and sutures are used to create normal folds of the ear and to decrease the prominence of the ear. Patients have an immediate improvement in their ear shape and are asked to wear a protective dressing for about a week following surgery.