Congenital Deformities of the Outer Ear

This information is useful for children and adults
outer ear, possibly with a congenital deformity

Credit: Getty Images

New parents delight in gazing at their babies, taking note of the sweet curled toes, observing dimples in the cheeks, elbows and knees, and analyzing whether these long, graceful fingers presage a talent for playing piano. But you may also notice problems like a scaly scalp, baby acne or, perhaps, that one or both of your newborn’s ears look a little unusual. Maybe the ear sticks out a bit or its top looks a little pointy. Though rare, sometimes babies are born with part of an ear missing entirely, which might cause hearing problems. It’s natural, then, to worry about whether that misshapen ear could make your child a target for teasing or if hearing loss could affect learning and speech abilities.

Fortunately, craniofacial surgeons have many ways to treat these kinds of ear deformities and the hearing loss that sometimes accompanies them. Options range from noninvasive ear molding to correct the shape of a malformed ear to surgery, typically not recommended until a child reaches school age. At the right time, however, surgical treatments can reshape and even entirely reconstruct abnormal ears, and in some cases, help restore hearing.

Congenital deformities of the outer ear—that is, deformities of the visible ear and ear canal that are present from birth—are common. Approximately 1 in every 6,000 newborns has an outer ear deformity. In general, treatments result in good outcomes, and if they are undertaken when your child is still young, they may help avoid social stigmatization altogether.

“Ear deformity correction offers a dramatic and permanent improvement to the ear appearance with an over 90% success rate if initiated on time,” says plastic surgeon Michael Alperovich, MD.