Ear molds are a nonsurgical and a very effective approach to treating many ear deformities present at birth. For optimum results, we have found that the ear molds should be placed as early as possible, ideally in the first week after birth. The ear deformities that ear molds an treat may be called by many different names for the same condition. The most common conditions and various terms include prominent ears (dumbo ears, bat ear), constricted ears (lop ear deformity, cup ear deformity), Stahl ear deformity, cryptotia and rim kinks. 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 the parents are provided tapes and adhesive to perform this.
For optimum results, we have found that the ear molds should be placed in the first week after birth but ear molds can be initiated up to 4 weeks of age for certain conditions. The earlier the ear molds are applied the better the results will be, therefore it is critical 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 have found that our approach results in fewer issues with skin irritation than the EarWell system. Although they 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.
EXPECTED COURSE OF TREATMENT
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 molds 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 deformity. 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. It is important to seek a consultation as soon as you develop any concerns about your baby’s ear shape.