We’ve talked about baby head shapes and when to worry, but what about ear shapes? Nichole Buswell, Pediatric Plastic Surgery Nurse Practitioner, answers popular questions parents have about how to correct newborn ear shapes with non-surgical ear molding.  

Q: I’m worried about the shape of my baby’s ears. Is this normal?

A: In most cases, yes. When it comes to ears, it’s helpful to understand the difference between ear deformities and ear malformations: 

  • Ear malformations occur when there are missing parts of the ear, and will require surgical correction later in life – this is less common.  
  • Ear deformities, which are quite common, occur when all parts of the ear are present, but may have a different shape, position, or folding pattern. Some may self-correct within the first few weeks of life, while others may not.  

If treated early enough, ear deformities may be corrected with a non-invasive process called ear molding.  

Q: How exactly does ear molding work?

A: Ear molding is a non-surgical procedure that can reshape your baby’s ears using a mold or splint made just for them. This is held in place with gentle tapes or adhesives for several weeks, and during this time, applies gentle pressure to the cartilage to reshape the outer ear.    

Q: What can I expect, from start to finish, with ear molding for my baby?

A: We’ll see your baby for a consultation, typically within a few days of the referral. Then: 

  • We’ll take a detailed history and examine baby’s ears.  
  • Next, we’ll talk through whether he or she is a candidate for non-invasive ear molding, and if so, which approach is recommended.  
  • At this point, some families like to take some time to think over the options, while others choose to initiate ear molding at the very first visit, if time allows.  
  • Either way, we’ll see you weekly at first, then biweekly, typically for a period of 6-8 weeks or until treatment is completed. During this time, we’ll take regular photos of baby’s ears to track progress.  

Q: How soon is too soon to explore ear molding for my baby?

A: It’s never too soon! In fact, the ideal time to start is as soon after birth as possible. This is because there are high levels of maternal hormones still circulating in baby’s system, which cause their ear cartilage to remain very soft and malleable. Around 6-8 weeks of life, these hormones begin to drop off, causing the ears to become firmer and less responsive to non-invasive molding.   

Q: Will the ear molding procedure hurt my baby?

A: No, and most babies won’t even realize anything is on their ears! It’s a safe procedure and your baby will not need an incision or anesthesia. Some babies do experience minor skin irritation from the tapes, which is normal and will resolve on its own. If there is any concern, we will leave the tapes off for a period of time to allow the skin to heal prior to reapplying.  

Q: Will the ear molding apparatus make it hard for my baby to hear?

A; Not at all! We carefully position the splint and/or molding device in such a way so that the ear canal is not blocked, so there is no impact on hearing.       

Q: Can I remove the ear molding at all?

A: No. The splints or molds must remain in place at all times in order to effectively reshape the ear cartilage. Please do not attempt to remove them at home.

  • Bathing tips: You may bathe your baby from the neck down, and use a washcloth to clean the face and hair. 
  • Cleaning the molding: We'll take care of this! At the start of each week’s visit, we will gently remove the splints/molds in the office, clean the skin, inspect the ears to track progress, and reapply before sending you home.      

Q: What happens if we don’t make it to you in time?

A: Don’t worry – you still have options for correcting your baby's ears. Otoplasty is the surgical correction of ear deformities, and takes place closer to 5-6 years of age, once the ears have nearly reached their full adult size.   

Q: As a plastic surgery nurse practitioner, what advice do you have for parents who are “on the fence” about correcting their child’s ear shape?

A: My advice would be to trust your instincts. You know your baby best and if you see that their ear shape is not improving over the first week or two, or you have concerns, it’s worth coming in for a consultation. Most ears, if treated early, will respond to non-surgical ear molding. It’s a small window of time during which we can make a lasting impact that goes a long way in a child’s life.     


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