MIAMI (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - When babies are born, parents count fingers and toes and look at their infants' facial features.
It's not uncommon to find ear malformations, present in about 15 percent of newborns. But now, there's a way to reshape the ear and prevent teasing and surgery in the future.
The Eldridges thought their newborn son was perfect at birth, except for one small thing, his right ear.
"It looks like maybe there's more extra skin or something, or the ear looks like a little bit folded on the top edge of the ear," Troy Eldridge says,
For most outer ear malformations, the solution can be simple. It's called ear molding.
Plastic surgeon at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Chad Perlyn, MD, PhD, explains what happens.
"We really like to do this within the first six weeks, that's key. That's because the maternal hormones, hormones from mom's body, that are still in the baby's body keeps that cartilage soft," Perlyn said.
A plaster replica of the baby's ear is made so that a customized hard plastic mold can be created, then carefully placed on the ear.
"There's a little clip with a spring with just the right amount of tension to hold the ear in position but not squeeze the ear too tight," Perlyn said.
The newborn's mother, Viktoria Eldridge, says, "He can feel that he has something there but he forgets about it."
Ear molds are usually worn for about six weeks, but results can be seen sooner than that, and last a lifetime.
New research shows that when doctors apply the ear mold to babies at two weeks old, or younger, the treatment time is shortened from six weeks to just two weeks. Insurance companies sometimes won't cover the cost of ear molding, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.