Constricted Ear, Lop Ear, and Cup Ear Infant Ear Deformity
Constricted ear, lop ear, and cup ear are congenital (present at birth) infant ear deformities that involve a malformation of the helical rim (top rim of the ear). Constricted ear, lop ear, and cup ear are often used interchangeably, as they are all characterized by a type of constriction of the upper third portion of the ear, resulting in the helix appearing wrinkled, rolled, or folded.
A good description of a constricted ear is to think of the helical rim as a drawstring, and the level, or severity, of ear constriction depends on how tightly the string is pulled. In all types of constricted ear, the upper helical rim is folded over to some degree, which is why the condition is often called lop ear. Lop ear is very similar in appearance to lidding deformity.
In more severe cases, the helical rim cartilage and scapha (see infant ear anatomy) form a tight roll or a cup shape. When the lower ear lobe is also pushed forward, the condition is similar to protruding, or prominent, ears because the cupping causes the ear to protrude from the head.
What Causes Constricted Ear, Lop Ear, and Cup Ear?
While the exact cause of constricted ear is unknown, all types of the deformity occur due to some tissue deficiency (cartilage or skin), resulting in the helix (ear rim cartilage) not developing adequately. Constricted ear is not simply a misshapen ear, but rather the ear is missing portions of skin and/or cartilage.
In severe cases which involve a more abnormally shaped ear in which normal auricle components are absent, constricted ear presents as a form of microtia, a condition characterized by parts of the external ear being malformed, smaller than normal or missing completely. Microtia, however, often involves hearing loss and inner ear defects, while patients with constricted ear usually have no hearing difficulties.
Symptoms/features of constricted ear can include:
- Decreased ear size
- Lop deformity (folded forward and down)
- Low ear position
Non-Surgical Treatment for Constricted Ear, Lop Ear and Cup Ear
Non-surgical treatment for constricted ear, lop ear, and cup ear is available when sought early, within the first few weeks of life. The EarWell® Infant Ear Correction System is highly successful for correcting many ear deformities, including constricted ears, when utilized shortly after birth. The EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System is an innovative, four-piece molding system co-invented by renowned plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Byrd, which painlessly reshapes the ears while the cartilage is still soft and malleable. The EarWell® System can be placed during a short office visit and remains on the ear/ears for approximately four to six weeks.
Because of the lack of complete skin formation between the helical rim and the scapha, less room is available to place the molds. Therefore, additional adhesive is typically required during the time the molds expand the rim while the Earwell® System is on.
Some Benefits of the EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System include:
- Non-surgical, permanent, and painless method of correcting ear deformities
- FDA approved
- 90% success rate
- Eliminates years of anxiety waiting to see if ear self-corrects
- Less expensive than otoplasty (surgical ear reconstruction)
- Often covered by insurance
- Fast results (usually in 2 months)
Surgical Treatment for Constricted Lop, Lop Ear, and Cup Ear
For patients seeking treatment outside of the time period optimal for utilizing The EarWell™ Infant Ear Correction System, ear reconstruction surgery (otoplasty) can be performed to correct constricted ear deformities. The surgical procedure used can vary, as constriction can present differently in each patient.
Depending on severity, constricted ear surgery can involve:
- Restoring normal upper ear features by shortening cartilage
- Minimizing the size of the upper ear
- Rib cartilage graft
- Grafted skin and cartilage from the normal ear (if available)
- Repositioning entire ear (severe cases)
When the ear deformity is mild, correction may be made using the present cartilage to reshape the ear.
If you have a newborn and are concerned about a constricted ear deformity, please utilize our physician locator for a list of experts qualified in placing The Earwell™ Infant Ear Correction System. For patients who do not qualify for The Earwell™ Infant Ear Correction System, we are pleased to refer you to a highly skilled plastic surgeon who is experienced extensively in performing constricted ear otoplasty.