As moms we research everything and anything once our newborn arrives. However, often times, simple procedures are often overlooked because we just don’t know about them. We interviewed Fairfield County Moms Blog sponsor, Dr. Shareef Jandali of Jandali Plastic Surgery, to find out more about infant ear molding.
What is an ear deformity?
An ear deformity is when all the parts of the ear are present, but some part of the cartilage is shaped or bent incorrectly. Examples of ear deformities include prominent ears (ears that stick out), ear lidding (ears that fold over), Stahl’s ear (pointed ears), and helical rim deformities (ear kinking or flat ears). These occur in varying degrees of severity and every deformity is different and requires a customized mold.
Tell us about baby ear molding and why more parents don’t know about this.
Ear molding has been performed for decades and started in East Asia. It was observed that newborn ear cartilage is soft from the estrogen from being in the mother’s womb. If the molding was started early enough, the cartilage could be shaped to correct a deformity before it hardens. It has been slow to catch on in America and most pediatricians don’t even know it’s a possibility. We have been going around to local pediatrician offices and giving talks to try to increase awareness.
Most parents reassure themselves and think that their child will grow into their ears when they are prominent, but that is not true. About 70% of baby ear deformities will not improve with time alone. Most parents also think the only way to correct large ears or ear deformities is with surgery, and that is also not true. Almost all ear deformities can be successfully molded non-surgically if started early enough just after birth.
How did you start performing these procedures?
My oldest daughter, who is now 4 years old, was born with an ear deformity. I knew this could be fixed non-surgically with ear molding. I saw this done multiple times during my residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. However, it requires some special supplies and equipment. When my wife and I looked for a physician performing ear molding in Connecticut, we couldn’t find anyone. We actually brought her down to Philadelphia to get molding performed there by one of my mentors. Realizing the lack of this specialty treatment in Connecticut, I decided to get all the necessary equipment and start offering it to parents and newborns in Connecticut. I have now performed about 100 ear moldings in the last couple of years.
What is the best time to fix ear deformities with ear molding?
Some very mild ear deformities will correct on their own in the first week after birth. If they haven’t corrected by then, studies show that they will stay misshapen. The earlier ear molding starts, the better the outcome. We like to start within the first 2-3 weeks after birth. However, for some infants that are born prematurely, molding can be successful even when started as late as 7-8 weeks old.
How long do you have to mold the ears to correct the ear deformity or fix newborn prominent ears?
It all depends on how severe the deformity is, but on average 4-6 weeks. The cartilage really starts to harden at about 6-7 weeks old, so we like to hold it in place in the corrected shape until at least that old.
Is ear molding painful?
It is not painful at all and babies completely ignore them. The mold is made out of a soft medical-grade silicone that is shaped over and around the ear. It has holes in the front surface, so it has no impact on hearing development.
What happens if you don’t mold ear deformities early enough?
The cartilage will harden by about 6-7 weeks old, making molding no longer possible. The only correction would be with ear surgery, known as an otoplasty, when the child is older. Otoplasty is usually performed around age 5 when the ear has grown close to its adult size and before kids are teased in school.
Does medical insurance cover ear molding?
Yes, ear molding to correct prominent ear or ear deformities is covered by all insurance plans. It is considered a congenital deformity and not considered cosmetic. We work with all insurance companies to get approval before the first office visit, when we apply the mold.
What advice do you give to parents?
Don’t wait! Most ear deformities are completely correctable without surgery. Why commit your child to a future corrective ear surgery if it can be corrected early with molding?
How can parents get more information about ear molding and your practice?
Parents can visit our main website HERE or visit our website dedicated to ear molding at www.infantearmolding.org. We have before and after photos showing some of the baby ears we have corrected with molding.
Jandali Plastic Surgery
5520 Park Ave, Suite WP-2-300
Trumbull, CT 06611