Infant Ear Splints
Ear molding consists of applying a custom-fit, soft plastic mold that corrects the ear deformity and holds the ear in a more normal position. Be wearing this device continuously (usually for 2-6 weeks), the ear can be reshaped to correct the deformity. The device is held in place with adhesives and tape; there is no pain to the infant during the application process. Several different ear molding devices are available ranging from those that can be applied at home to those requiring physician application.
A useful analogy is to think of an infant’s ear cartilage as wet clay. This soft, malleable cartilage can be held in a new position by the ear mold. As weeks pass, the cartilage hardens and holds its new shape. The device can then be removed while the ear shape remains permanently improved.
Nonsurgical Ear Molding
The decision to treat an ear deformity is one that should be shared among parent and physician. Treatment is aimed at restoring a more normal appearance to the external ear by reshaping any irregular cartilage. Treatment consists of both non-surgical and surgical options. The most effective non-surgical option is ear molding.
· Ear molding – the cartilage (the tissue that gives the ear its shape) of an infant differs from that of an adult. An infant’s ear cartilage may be molded into a new shape, unlike that of an adult’s. This pliability of an infant’s ear lasts only a few weeks so it is critical that the treatment be started quickly. Ear molding consists of applying a custom-fit, soft plastic mold that corrects the ear deformity and holds the ear in a more normal position.
· Surgical treatment – surgery is reserved for bothersome ear deformities that persist. Surgery is performed no sooner than 5-7 years of age, when the ear growth has neared completion. Unlike ear molding, this technique involves a plastic surgeon making an incision behind the ear and reshaping the cartilage framework.
The EarWell® system is an ear molding system that was developed by Dr. Byrd, a highly respected pediatric plastic surgeon. Numerous clinical studies have been performed using the EarWell® system, with a 90% success rate if applied early in an infant’s life. The system must be applied by a physician. Ideally, treatment begins within the first 2 weeks of life. Applying the EarWell® is painless for the infant. The physician will have to clip some of the hair around the ear, apply a plastic adhesive base plate, mold retractors and formers to fit your infant’s ear, and apply a breathable covering. Once applied, the parents are asked to keep the device dry and monitor it for loosening. The system should not interfere with the infant’s ability to hear or his/her language development.