Ear Molding & Reconstruction
Ear molds are a nonsurgical and a very effective approach to treating many ear deformities present at birth. These deformities can be called by many different names for the same condition; however, these conditions all involve an abnormal shape of the ear with minor or no deficiency of skin and 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 molds consist of splints made of dental impression material. This material is firm enough to reshape the ear cartilage but still gentle on the skin. These splints are held in place with adhesive and tapes. The ear molds are left in place 24 hours a day. Occasionally the tapes need reinforcement and at the first clinic visit the parents are provided tapes and adhesive to perform this.
We have found that the ear molds placed in the first week after the baby is born provide the best results, but ear molds can be initiated up to 4 weeks of age for certain conditions, as long as the baby’s cartilage is not firm. The earlier the ear molds are applied the better the results will be, therefore it is very important to seek a consultation as soon as you have any concerns regarding your baby’s ear shape. We have an approximate 90% success rate, where the ears appear completely normal after treatment and no surgery is required 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.
Our approach to ear molding is gentle on the ears. We also have experience with the EarWell system, and while the EarWell system is effective, we have found that our approach results in fewer issues with skin irritation. Although complications from ear mold treatment are uncommon, some of the issues that may develop during ear molding include a yeast infection under the tape and skin irritation from the adhesive on the tape or glue. If these occur, the ear molds may have to be removed for a week to allow the irritation to resolve.
The molding process usually consists of 3-4 visits. At the first visit photos are taken and the ear molds are applied. Every 2-3 weeks the ear molds are removed, photos are taken, and new ear molds are applied, to continue the reshaping process. At the final visit the ear molds are removed and final photos are taken. The typical treatment time is 6-8 weeks. Occasionally the ear cartilage is softer than normal and a slightly longer period of molding may be recommended in order to obtain the best results for your baby's ears.
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 deformities. 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 so it is important to seek a consultation as soon as you develop any concerns about your baby’s ear shape.