These are some of the most frequently asked questions by parents when they call to learn more about ear molding for newborn ear deformities. Many of these questions also come up during the ear molding process. Please read our frequently asked questions and answers below. If your question hasn’t been answered, please submit one below.
The ears can sometimes develop differently while the baby is in the womb. This can be due to genetic factors or due to pressure being applied to one ear more than the other while in the uterus.
The majority of ear deformities in babies are usually caused by genetic factors which could have been inherited from one of the parents, or could be due to pressure applied to the ear during development in the uterus.
Two large studies from Texas and Canada show that 2/3 of all deformities or protruding ears will remain the same or worsen with time. About 1/3 of deformities will improve in the first week after birth when they are mild. We therefore have parents and pediatricians wait until after the baby is a week old to see if the ears correct on their own. After about 7-10 days old, whatever shape the ears have is what they will continue to be, unless they are molded into an improved shape.
Baby ear cartilage starts to harden at about 6-7 weeks of age. In babies born prematurely, the cartilage stays softer for longer. Therefore, we want to start ear molding before the cartilage hardens, preferably in the first 3 weeks after birth.
A small area of hair on the scalp around the ear is trimmed. The area is then cleaned and the mold is customized and placed to correct the prominent ear or the ear deformity. The mold either has its own adhesive or tape is applied to secure it into place.
The ear molds are made out of medical grade silicone pieces as well as medical grade adhesive tape. The tape is specifically formulated for newborn skin and to maintain adherence for up to 2 weeks.
Ear molding puts gentle pressure on the cartilage of the ear while it is still soft. The cartilage bends into the correct shape over a few weeks with the mold in place. The mold is then kept in place when the ear cartilage starts to harden to make sure it hardens into the right shape.
No. Due to the adhesive that is holding the mold in place, the area around the mold cannot get wet. The baby can still be bathed and the top of the head can be washed, but carefully placing cloths over the molds so that they don’t get wet.
The ear mold should not affect nursing at all. We do recommend placing a clean cloth over the area to prevent milk or formula from dripping or being spit up into/onto the mold.
Depending on what age we start the ear molding process, as well as the severity of the prominence or deformity, we usually mold for 4 to 6 weeks. The adhesive on the molds usually lasts about 2 weeks, so it does need to be replaced once or twice with a visit to the office.
While ear molding is ideally performed in the first 3 weeks after birth, we have been successful molding ears up to 3-4 months old. The cartilage is firmer at this older age, and the molds often have to be in place for 6 weeks or longer. We can’t guarantee full correction at older ages, but we often obtain significant improvement and avoid the need for future corrective ear surgery.
Yes, ear molding does not affect hearing development, your ability to nurse the baby, or the baby sleeping or laying on his/her side. It applies gentle pressure to reshape the ear. Ear molding is painless and is non-surgical. One risk is that there can be skin irritation due to milk or spit up entering underneath the mold. We instruct parents on how to prevent this from occurring and signs to look out for if it were to occur. Another rare risk is a small area of scab from excessive pressure being applied from part of the mold. The scab will heal on its own and we sometimes recommend Bacitracin application for a few days until the area is healed.
Infant ear molding is not painful to apply or to keep on. It is completely non-surgical and applies gentle pressure to reshape the ear. A medical grade adhesive is used to keep the soft silicone mold in place. Most babies completely ignore it once it is in place.
A small rim of hair needs to be trimmed around the ear in order to allow adherence of the ear mold to the skin. If this is not performed, the ear mold can become detached prematurely, or even cause harm to parts of the ear due to unwanted pressure and movement. Hair regrowth usually occurs within a few weeks to a few months. Newborn hair growth is variable, with some babies having full heads of hair at birth and other babies losing some of their hair after birth. The hair always grows back normally after ear molding.
We teach parents how to strategically tape the edges of the ear mold when they start to get loose. We can always be reached if there is any issue and once it starts to loosen or detach, we will have you return to our office to have a new mold placed. If the mold is off for a short time, this will not affect the end outcome or extend the molding time needed.
While an individual can be allergic to anything, it is very rare to have an allergy to the medical grade silicone or adhesive in the ear molds. The most common reason for a baby to develop skin irritation around or underneath the ear mold is due to milk, formula, or spit up entering the mold or the tape/adhesive. This leads to a type of contact dermatitis which causes the skin to become red and irritated, almost like a diaper rash. This is not an infection, just like a diaper rash is not an infection and isn’t treated with antibiotics. If this occurs or if there is any foul odor coming from the ear, we recommend removal of the mold (we supply an adhesive remover), washing the area with gentle soap, and allowing the irritation to clear over a couple of days. A new ear mold can be applied once the skin irritation completely clears.
No. Ear splints, like EarBuddies™, are usually pre-made and one size fits all. They can be cumbersome to keep in the correct position and the tape can pull or distort the ear. They are inadequate for severely protruding ears or more complex ear deformities.
Yes, if ear molding is not performed in time, and the cartilage hardens, then ear pinning surgery (otoplasty) can be performed when your child is about 5-6 years old. Otoplasty involves scraping the hard cartilage to weaken it and then applying permanent sutures to reshape it.
The goal with ear molding is to avoid future surgery, which has added risks, downtime, recovery, and cost.
Ear molding is covered by insurance during infancy, as it is considered a deformity at that time.
However, otoplasty is considered cosmetic and is an out of pocket cost (not covered by insurance) when your child is older.
Ear tape for protruding ears or other ear deformities is not as effective as ear molding. Tape can also put pressure on the outer rim of the ear, unfolding it and possibly causing further harm. In addition, tape cannot mold and fix complex deformities which need to be completely reshaped.
The vast majority of insurances will cover infant ear molding for newborn ear deformities, since it is considered reconstructive and non-cosmetic. Dr. Jandali will work with all insurances to get approval and will guide you in how to appeal the insurance company if coverage is denied. We obtain approval before your first visit, so that molding can be applied at the first visit.