Infant Ear Molding and the EarWell™
What is infant ear molding?
Infant ear molding is a non-surgical restorative technique designed to reshape a newborn’s ears. Babies’ ears can have deformities that do not correct on their own shortly after birth. The cartilage is soft and pliable in the newborn for the first couple of weeks of life. By molding the ears with specially shaped soft plastic and silicone, the normal shape can be formed without ear surgery. It is important to address these concerns as early as possible for the best result, so if you believe your infant can benefit, or if a pediatrician noticed an abnormality, contact our practice for swift assistance.
Why choose ear molding?
We believe that this technique provides a non-surgical correction that is as good or better than surgery. The cost, pain, and risk of anesthesia are potentially eliminated with this technique if it is successful.
These deformities are easily corrected if diagnosed early in infancy. Using molding techniques such as the EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System we can restore the normal ear anatomy without surgery. Dr. Payne, our extensively trained craniofacial plastic surgeon has been trained by the inventor of the EarWell™, Dr. Steve Byrd.
In order for ear molding to be maximally effective, the treatment begins in the first two weeks of life. Make an appointment today for your newborn infant ear evaluation with Dr. Eric Payne at our state-of-the-art practice.
What is the EarWell™ System?
The EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System is made up of four pieces:
- Posterior shell with posterior conformer
- Helical rim retractors
- Conchal former
- Anterior shell
Each piece is carefully placed in order to gently reshape the soft ear tissues. The design is tailored to babies’ needs, including comfort and safety. Sometimes additional soft silicone putty is added to help with reshaping the ear. An adhesive holds the apparatus in place, and the flexible plastic shell works in combination with a special molding putty to achieve the desired outcome. You will be present while our physician places the EarWell™ system, so you can see exactly how each layer contributes to the final result. Each ear mold is carefully designed and placed to correct each individual ear anomaly.
EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System is manufactured by Becon Medical Ltd.
Types of Ear Deformities
Commonly known as “Spock Ears” or “elf ears,” the helical rim is deformed and flattened, which is caused by a third crus. The appearance is of a pointed ear shape at the top of the ear.
In lidding, the upper portion of the helical rim is collapsed due to lack of support from a superior crus. This causes the appearance of the ear being folded over the top. Lidding occurs in about 27% of infant ear deformities.
Lop ear is a folding over of the upper third or half of the ear. It is very similar to lidding but is much more severe.
Cryptotia is defined as a portion of the ear cartilage buried beneath the skin. Usually cartilage is not missing, but the cartilage is compressed and deformed. There is missing skin behind the ear, which makes wearing glasses difficult. This type of ear deformity is a functional problem.
Helical Rim Deformity
The helical rim is distorted and abnormally shaped.
Constricted Ear Deformity
There is an absence of skin and/or scapha causing a constriction deformity of the ear. The constricted ear can be mildly, moderately, or severely deformed.
The most common deformity is the prominent ear. The ear projects away from the head causing an appearance of larger ears. A more severe variation of prominent ears is called a “Cup Ear.”
A ridge of the conchal, or bowl, of the ear is present, causing a more prominent ear deformity.
Inverted or Anteverted Conchal Bowl Deformity
The conchal bowl near the ear canal is convex instead of concave, causing narrowing of the ear canal and making it difficult to hear or remove wax, which can build up and cause hearing loss.
What can be done for ear deformities?
In the past the suggestion was to just allow the ears to naturally form normal shape of the ear with time and growth. We have learned that about 15% of children are born with ear deformities, and the majority of them do not resolve with time. The parents were then told to wait until the child is older between the ages of five and seven years old before having surgery. Surgery for a child can be tough since it is painful. Sometimes the child has already undergone repeated insults from other children in regard to their ears.
Recently there has been a new push for non-surgical correction of infant ears with molding techniques, because they are pain free. The technique has been simplified by using a device invented by Dr. Steve Byrd called the EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System. This device is placed around the ear and the child is treated for about six to eight weeks. It is important to start the treatment during the first few weeks of life to get the best results. If the child is older than a month old, the success of treatment using the EarWell™ device drops significantly. Therefore, we believe in only treating very young infants with these molding techniques. Unfortunately, this leaves only the surgical option if the infant is older than a several months old.
How does infant ear molding with the EarWell™ work?
The first step is to prepare the ear for the device, which means to shave an area around the ear so the adhesive will hold well. The posterior shell, or cradle, will then be placed over the ear and adhered to the skin. The retractor is then placed, and this apparatus is used to shape the rim of the ear. The conchal former is then attached, and it is utilized to shape the center of the ear. Additionally, soft silicone putty can be added and shaped, then allowed to harden into a custom mold that will improve the shape of the ear. Finally, the anterior shell, or cover, is added last to secure the EarWell™ system together. Since the cartilage and tissues on the infant are so soft, the EarWell™ can modify the shape of the ear simply by holding it in the optimal position for an extended period. Our skilled medical team will monitor your child’s progress during treatment to ensure the process is working or determine if another technique may be needed. As many as 90% of children can obtain excellent results from the EarWell™ system if used within the first eight weeks of life.
Have additional questions about the EarWell™? Contact our practice today to learn more and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Payne.