She has his eyes. My lips and nose. But whose ears does she have? Our baby girl was born with misshapen ears. At first, we did not think much of it.
She suffered a somewhat traumatic birth, and so we thought the strange shape of her ears was probably just due to the time spent in the birth canal.
Besides, she was perfect and beautiful to us in every way. She passed her hospital hearing test, and all was right in our world. Her right ear improved on its own within a few weeks. The left ear, on the other hand, did not.
At her one-week appointment, our pediatrician recommended we wait for a specialist referral, and we agreed. But once she turned a month old and the left ear deformity persisted, we elected to go forward with a referral to plastic surgery.
I was immediately informed we had likely waited too long. The receptionist on the phone got me an appointment the very same day in order to not waste any more time. Naturally and unavoidably, I felt that first pang of mom guilt. Had I missed something that could have prevented future suffering for my child? Would her ear require surgery? How risky or painful would that be? Would she be bullied? Would she grow up with a self-esteem problem, constantly trying to cover her ear with her hair, afraid to wear it in a ponytail or braid?
We went to the appointment and saw an efficient, professional physician assistant who examined my daughter’s ear and discussed the situation with me and my mom, who came with me for moral support. She advised we check with our insurance to consider non-surgical treatment with something called an earwell. This would require us to shave our daughter’s hair on the left side and for her to wear a large mold over her ear 24/7 for several weeks to months. In the meantime, she advised we tape her ear into a better position and showed us how.
After the PA consulted with the plastic surgeon and I spoke with our insurance company, we decided we would just continue to tape her ear.
We taped my daughter’s ear for the next two months straight. And there was a modest improvement in her ear deformity.
Although I am an MD, I am not an ear specialist, and so I have chosen to write about our experience from a purely non-medical perspective. It is important to talk to your pediatrician about any congenital abnormality you observe in your new baby and discuss how urgent intervention might be.
Ultimately, our baby may need surgery to fully correct the problem. But we can wait to reconsider that once she is school-age. For now, we hope the improvement we gained with our persistent taping will be enough. Like Nemo’s “lucky fin,” she has a “lucky ear.” But her ear works, and she is healthy, happy, and growing strong. To us, she is still perfect and beautiful in every way, and always will be