Prominent Ears: A Common Cosmetic Issue in Childhood

Prominent ears are detected in babies when the pinna looks more detached from the head. Learn what causes this deformity and how it's treated.
Prominent Ears: A Common Cosmetic Issue in Childhood

Last update: 23 June, 2022

4 out of every 100 children are born with prominent ears, which means that their ears look farther away (or “detached”) from the head than usual. This aesthetic defect occurs due to an atypical development of the auricular cartilage and manifests itself at an early age.

Here, we’re going to tell you everything you should know about this particular facial feature. Don’t miss it!

What are prominent ears?

Prominent ears are a deformity in the pinna that usually manifests itself in childhood. In 60% of the cases, this feature is already present at birth, while in the others it becomes more accentuated with growth and is more noticeable at an older age. In almost all cases, the defect occurs on both sides.

Due to its appearance, this condition is also known as prominent, winged, or looped ears and the corresponding medical term is ear pinnae loop deformity.

As mentioned above, it’s a defect in-ear formation caused by the lack of one of the folds of auricular cartilage, called the antihelix. Therefore, the depth in the shell of the ear appears to be greater than usual and causes a separation with respect to the head of more than 2 centimeters.

A child with his hands behind his ears.
As the years go by, the physical appearance of the ears is usually disguised, either because the child’s head grows or because they use a haircut that leaves them less exposed.

Prominent ears and a child’s self-esteem

Fortunately, prominent ears are only an aesthetic issue that doesn’t affect the child’s hearing or balance. However, it can affect their emotional and social sphere.

As the child grows up and becomes aware of their physical appearance, this facial deformity can leave its mark on their self-esteem. In fact, in many cases, it can be the cause of bullying among peers or pejorative nicknames of various kinds.

Some children may even show difficulties in school performance and even concentration due to bullying. In these cases, it’s important to correct the defect to improve their quality of life.

What is the treatment for prominent ears?

To treat this ear deformity, there are two alternatives: Surgical treatment (otoplasty) or non-surgical treatment. The former is highly effective in correcting the defect, while the latter is less effective. Let’s look at each one separately.

Non-surgical treatment options

Conservative treatment has shown efficacy in some cases, depending on the age at which it’s implemented and the adherence of the child and their family to the use of the prosthesis.

Among these, the following stand out:

1. Silicone prostheses: This treatment involves the placement of a transparent silicone prosthesis that keeps the ears attached to the head. The adhesives used are very soft, hypoallergenic, and water-resistant.

Some studies endorse their use and declare adequate effectiveness when used for 12 months. They can be implemented from 3 months of age.

2. Auri method: Designed by Danish researchers, it combines the use of a clip with an adhesive band. The first is made to fit the child’s ear and is worn at night. The second is used during the day.

This method seeks to squeeze, bend, and stretch the cartilage at the same time, in order to optimize the effect. It should be used for 6 months.

3. EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System: The system consists of four components that create a mold that guides the ears into a natural shape and growth pattern. It’s held in place with specialized adhesive retention strips that need to be monitored and replaced periodically over the next few weeks. The entire process takes between four and six weeks.

Surgical treatment: Otoplasty

If non-surgical treatments don’t achieve the desired effect, otoplasty should be performed. This surgery resolves the defect completely and is suitable to be performed on minors.

The procedure is low risk and has a quick recovery, as it requires local anesthesia and sedation. It lasts approximately 2 hours and doesn’t require hospitalization. It’s recommended to be performed after 7 years of age when the ears have already adopted their definitive shape and position.

A baby's ear.
Prominent ears can be observed in small babies, but it’s more appropriate to postpone their surgical resolution until they reach their definitive position.

Prominent ears, a treatable deformity

It’s important to emphasize that some home remedies to treat prominent ears could be harmful to the child, especially elastic tapes, adhesives, adhesive bandages, or caps. First of all, they can cause skin irritations and allergies, but they also increase the risk of choking due to accidental ingestion of foreign bodies (in case of detachment).

It’s best to always follow the pediatrician’s instructions and wait until the baby is of a suitable age to effectively and definitively treat this ear deformity.

It might interest you...
5 Movies About Bullying That Everyone Should See
You are Mom
Read it in You are Mom
5 Movies About Bullying That Everyone Should See

Bullying is an increasingly frequent problem, which is why we want to share this list of movies about bullying that everyone should see.