Birth Defects of the Ear

Birth Defects of the Ear

The human ear is made of thin skin and cartilage intricately folded and shaped to give the ear its characteristic appearance. Ear malformations occur in the womb, when problems happen in the growth, folding and shaping of the ear. These malformations come in many shapes and forms.

Most commonly, children have prominent ears (protruding too far forward from the head). Other common malformations are constricted ears (also known as cup ear), Stahl's ear (ear has extra fold), small ears (microtia), or absent ears (anotia). Ear abnormalities can lead to teasing from peers, which can cause psychological, social, and emotional stress for the child. Some children may become self-conscious and ashamed. In children who are bothered by the malformation, repair is an available option.

When babies are very young (less than 6 months), some ear malformations can be corrected by molding the ear into a better shape; however, molding works best the earlier it is started.

When children are older, ear surgery (also called otoplasty) or ear reconstruction (for children with microtia or anotia) is available to normalize the appearance of the ear or reconstruct a new ear when the ear is absent. For more information or to schedule an appointment call ?

Prominent Ear

Prominent ears result when the ear folds are not as folded and when the cup-shaped part of the ear is very large, causing the ear to protrude from the side of the head. Usually, children have no problems with hearing.

Otoplasty recreates the missing cartilage folds and sometimes reduces the size of the bowl, bringing the ear closer to the head to give the ear a more normal appearance. This procedure is generally done at 4-7 years old, when the cartilage is thick enough to tolerate surgery and the ear is almost adult size. Also at this age, children are just starting or about to start school, and they can also better participate in the decision for surgery and post-operative instructions.

Constricted Ears

Also known as a "cup ear" or "lop ear" deformity, this malformation occurs when the upper rim of the ear is folded over or shortened. Usually, hearing in these children is normal. In these cases, cartilage may need to be borrowed from elsewhere in the body to stabilize the correction.

Cauliflower Ear

Though this is not a congenital malformation, cauliflower ear results from trauma to the ear and build up of fluid between the ear and the cartilage. If not drained, this collected blood will form into thick cartilage-like scar. This can be addressed by removing the scar and sculpting the ear to its previous appearance.


Microtia happens when a baby's ear is small or under-developed. Anotia occurs when the ear is absent completely. The external ear can be reconstructed by sculpting cartilage (taken from the ribs) into an ear.

Microtia and anotia can be associated with small or absent ear canals and abnormalities in the middle ear, that can affect hearing. An ear, nose, throat (ENT) doctor treats the ear canal, middle ear, and provide bone-conducting hearing devices. Evaluation by an ENT doctor is necessary.

If you'd like more information or want to schedule an appointment, please call 316-688-7500 or click below.

Request your consultation →

Browse More Procedures