Between one-fifth and one-third of infants are born with prominent or misfolded ears. Immediately after birth, the cartilage is very flexible, thanks to circulating estrogen left over from pregnancy. The ears are especially malleable. Some misfolded ears unfold on their own shortly after the child is born, but if the issue does not resolve itself within a week, early intervention is advisable.
There is a very specific window of time in which treatment with the EarWell device is appropriate: before the child is one month of age. If you miss this window, ear correction will have to wait until the child is old enough to undergo surgery (around age 5 or 6 ). Having surgery is a much more invasive option, with issues of recovery, cost and potential discomfort to consider.
What is the EarWell Infant Ear Correction System?
The EarWell is a custom-fit plastic molding device. It resembles a “cradle” that adheres around the ear, with retractors that shape the ear’s structure. A special shell fits over the ear and holds all of the components in place. The EarWell device should be worn for six to eight weeks, during which time it will gently, gradually and permanently correct the shape of the ears. I follow my patients every 1-2 weeks during this process. Babies undergoing EarWell treatment do not feel any pain during treatment. When placed before the baby is a month old, the EarWell device has a 90 percent success rate. It is less effective in older babies.
When is surgery required?
When the ear is missing cartilage or skin, the EarWell cannot be used. I perform ear reconstruction between ages 5-7, with the child’s own cartilage, or Medpor based on evaluation and discussion with parents. For more on ear reconstruction, please inquire about a consultation.