We come across many people having protruding or prominent ears. Nearly 1 to 5 percent of populations all over the world are known to have prominent ears. Often the condition is inherited and the child is born with it. Protruding ears does not cause any functional disability but it can affect the facial outlook of a person.
Children born with protruding ears often feel embarrassed, especially when they are teased by their peers. This can lead to low self esteem and many other psychological problems in children. The external ears are the first organ of the body to reach their full size as early as in childhood.Therefore when they stick out prominently, they are more noticeable in children.
Protruding ears can be unilateral or bilateral. In majority of cases it is a cartilage defect during the intrauterine developmental phase. Prominent ears may have abnormal cartilage folds. Sometimes the ears become more prominent three months after birth. The appearance of external ears can be corrected within six months of birth by conservative methods when the cartilage is still soft. However, after first six months of life, it can be remolded only with surgery.
What Are The Causes Of Protruding Ears?
Protruding ears can be due to several causes.One of the main causes is inheritance. This means a child born with prominent ears may have his or her close relative with the same feature. Sometimes it can be a developmental defect while the fetus is in the womb with no history of inheritance. In such cases the folds eventually resolve as the child grows.
- A floppy ear along with other physical abnormalities can be a sign of chromosomal defect. It is often found in Down’s syndrome.
- Since the ear cartilage is soft during the first six months of life, a mild protrusion is frequently exacerbated when the ear is bent repeatedly. Breast feeding mothers should therefore take care of the position while feeding their child.
- Repeated trauma to the ear can cause floppy ears. It is more prevalent in adults, for example among boxers. This can result in permanent disfigurement of the ears.
- Certain neurological disorders such as Bell’s palsy can cause drooping of ear. It is because of the paralysis of the facial nerve which innervates the external ear. Only one side of the face is affected in Bell’s palsy therefore the defect is unilateral.
- The ear and nose cartilage has tendency to grow at a very slow pace with age. Therefore few people may have enlarged nose and ears as they age. The protrusion becomes more obvious in elderly individuals above the age of 60 or 70.
How To Fix Protruding Ears Without Surgery?
If the floppy ear has to be corrected conservatively, it has to be fixed before the age of six months after birth. The ear cartilage during this period is soft and flexible; therefore it can be easily manipulated to some extent.
Previously bandaging and taping were used to correct protruded ears. Now there are various splints and tapes available to remold the prominent ear in children below the age of six months. Six months after birth the cartilage is matured and it cannot be remolded. The only option left is surgery.
The earlier the splints are used it is better is the outcome. The splint has to be in its place all the time. Splints are now available which can be worn throughout day and night. As far as possible parents have to be careful to see that the child sleeps upright so that much weight is not put on the ears.