When his son was born with a Stahl’s bar, a common ear deformity that is difficult to correct surgically, Mr David Gault, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at The Portland Hospital, developed Ear Buddies.
Here, Mr Gault explains how and when Ear Buddies are used at The Portland Hospital.
What are ear deformities and how common are they?
Ear deformities can be noticed as early as birth. Common forms include lop ear, cup ear, rim kinks, folded-over helical rim, Stahl’s bar and ear tags. About 4% of babies are born with ear deformity, and the majority will have the condition bat ear, which is when the ears protrude or stick out.
Are there any health implications associated with having an ear deformity?
Having an ear deformity does not usually affect the hearing or development of a child. This being said, in later life a very floppy or a protruding ear can cause a problem for a child who needs to wear a behind-the-ear hearing aid, and an asymmetric ear shape can cause a problem in a child who needs to wear spectacles. Additionally, a misshapen auditory meatus (ear hole) can prevent a child or adult from wearing an earpiece or headphone.
Can ear deformities be acquired?
The majority of children who have deformities of the external ear are born with their condition. However, one third of all ears that protrude are developed at around 3 month of age and can be worsened by the wearing of hooded clothing or collars which place external pressure on the ear by pushing it forward. If a baby’s ear is easily pushed forward their ears are at risk of being permanently protruded and should be splinted to prevent a permanent bat ear deformity from developing.
If a child starts to develop protruding ears why might a parent wish to consider having the condition treated?
The main reason to treat protruding ears is purely aesthetic. In some Eastern societies protruding ears are associated with good luck but in Western cultures children with protruding ears are often teased and this can begin as early as nursery school.
How do Ear Buddies work to correct ear deformities?
Ear Buddies are splints that are inserted onto the ear. They help to correct ear deformities in infants by moulding the baby’s soft ear cartilage into shape so that it “sets” into the correct shape as the child develops and their cartilage hardens.
At what age is it best to treat a child’s protruding ears? Are there any benefits of starting treatment at a young age/in later life?
Early splinting to influence the shape or protrusion of a child’s ear is now an established technique and popular with parents. The ideal time to consider splinting a child’s ear deformity with Ear Buddies is as soon as the deformity is noticed. For most splintable ear deformities, this is at birth and at The Portland Hospital most babies are lucky enough to be seen by Consultant Paediatricians familiar with the technique.
When used in new-born babies, Ear Buddies are worn for 2-4 weeks and the earlier splintage is started the easier it is. This is because the baby moves less, is less dextrous and does not interfere with the splints.
What is the advantage of using Ear Buddies to correct an ear deformity over alternative treatments?
One of the main advantages of Ear Buddies is that they do not require a general anaesthetic to be applied and can be used from birth when the child’s cartilage is soft and can be easily manipulated.
For older children, surgery known as pinnaplasty or otoplasty is the usual form of treatment for prominent or misshapen ears. This procedure is usually performed under general anaesthetic and is common for children under the age of 11. It should not be undertaken until the age of 5 years because during this time the cartilage is too soft.
For more information about treating a child’s ear deformity at The Portland Hospital or to book an appointment with Mr David Gault please telephone 0203 393 1103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org