Abnormally formed ears can occur from a wide range of birth defects or trauma. Ear deformities not only affect one’s appearance but can contribute to recurrent ear infections as well as hearing impairment, which in turn affects speech development leading to learning disabilities in children. Causes of ear deformities in children can occur from genetic mutations, exposure to toxins or medications while in utero, viral infections such as the flu and measles, and decreased blood supply during fetal development.
Types of Ear Deformities
- Anotia – missing both or one ear(s)
- Microtia – small, underdeveloped ear
- Cryptotia – the top of the external ear has grown under the skin of the scalp
- Ear Tag – presence of a growth of cartilage in front of the ear
- Protruding Ears – describes ears that protrude more than 2 cm from the head
- Constricted Ears – ears that appear flattened or rolled inwards
- Stahl’s Ears – pointy tips to the ears
- Hemangiomas – non-cancerous tumors of capillary vessels in or on the ear
Ear malformations can be easily corrected. Minor ear malformations may not need treatment, especially if hearing is not affected. It often comes down to cosmetic preferences of the individual and/or parents. Severe cases that affect hearing, however, should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid affecting speech since hearing is important in speech and social development. Occasionally however, surgery is postponed until a child is five or six when the ears have become fully developed. Hearing aids or surgically implanted hearing devices called a cochlear implants can be used if hearing has been affected.