Congenital ear deformities are birth defects that affect the shape, function and position of the ear. It is estimated that five percent of the population is born with an ear malformation. Two of the most frequent conditions are microtia (small ears) and protruding ears.
Protruding ears are those that stick out more than 2 centimeters from the side of the head. Prominent ears are more of a cosmetic concern than a medical issue, and may be corrected through the use of ear molding or surgery. Ear molding is a technique to mold deformed ears into a normal shape by manipulating the still-soft cartilage of an infant through the use of orthodontic molding materials. This procedure works best within the first three to six weeks; after this point, the ear cartilage stiffens and can no longer be molded. A procedure known as otoplasty can be used to surgically correct protruding ears. Again, it is preferable to wait until the ears have stopped growing before performing the operation. During an otoplasty, an incision is made behind the ears, and cartilage is used to create an antihelical fold that serves to “pin” the ears back.