Prominent ears (previously described as 'bat' ears) is common. It is when the ears stick out from the head. Some children and adults seek surgical correction when they begin to experience bullying because of it or become self-aware. Otoplasty is the name of the operation to correct deformities of the ear and is usually performed at or after the age of 5 years, as this is when the cartilage is strong enough to maintain the new shape. The operation is very successful but carries risks, like a worsening deformity or scarring, and is normally performed under a general anaesthetic in children.

There is a way to avoid surgery to correct prominent ears if it is recognised early enough in a child's life. After birth the ears are usually a bit deformed from being squashed up in the womb, but after a few days the shape of the ear becomes apparent.  The commonest cause for prominent ears is a loss of the antihelical fold (See diagram). The diagram demonstrates a normal antihelical fold which is the bend in the cartilage of the ear that folds the top part of the ear back. This type of deformity can be corrected by using splints in the first year of life. Since the splints have been available there has been about a 20% drop in the number of Otoplasty operations performed.

Antihelical Fold
Credit: Shutterstock

Ear Splints

Ear splinting can be used to correct the ear deformity in babies and is effective if used before  3 months of age but can be used up to 1 year of age. The ears normally need to be splinted for only a few weeks if started early in the child's life but would need to be splinted for much longer if used at an older age. The splints can be purchased but before you start any new treatment you must see your medical practitioner to discuss the options available, risks and benefits associated with each treatment. This article is for information only and I cannot be held liable for any complications or consequences that occur with the use ear splints.  I've included some medical journal references on ear splinting for further information.[3610][3611][3612]

Although ear splinting has been around for a while it isn't yet widespread practice and many professionals aren't aware of it. I hope this article helps people become more aware of this treatment option and prevent the need for an operation under general anaesthetic at a later stage. I am not affiliated with any ear splinting company.