A Jacksonville doctor offers a non-surgical procedure to fix ear deformities that can make children target of bullies.
"We were concerned about bullying," said local mother, Holli Craven after her daughter was born with a misshapen ear.
"You never want your kid to have any, you know, disadvantage no matter how small," added Craven as she explained the reason she and her husband called Dr. Saswata Roy for help.
Roy is a Jacksonville otolaryngologist who specializes in treating children with facial deformities. He says 20% of the babies born in the United States have some kind of ear deformity.
Parents often assume their baby's ear will fix itself as the baby grows, but Dr. Roy says that's not true. If not treated within the first 3 to 4 weeks of birth, surgery is often the only solution.
"The issue has been that this is just something that has been ignored. People say, you know, a baby's born and you're concerned about so many different things, the last thing anyone sees or looks at is a baby's ear," said Roy.
Craven's pediatrician referred her to Roy during her daughter's first well check at 2 weeks of age.
"We noticed when she was first born it (ear) was just a little pinched up top and a little pointy on one side. There were a couple of little ripples in the cartilage and we thought maybe it was one of those things because she was a newborn, it would straighten out on her own," recalled Craven.
"We weren't sure at first, but after talking to Dr. Roy, it was non-invasive so we figured that if there was something that we could do for her that wasn't invasive, at such a young age, that she wouldn't notice or it wouldn't bother her, why not go ahead and do it," said Craven about her decision to use the ear well system to fix the shape of her baby's ear.
How does the EarWell system work?
Roy uses a non-surgical method to correct ear deformities in babies.
"It's really customizing a series of molds that allows us to recontour the shape and the position of the ear to what we want. We shave the hair around the ear because you cannot put an adhesive structure over the hair and every two weeks we have to change the mold, " he explained.
Roy says the baby hardly knows the mold is there and it is not painful in the least.
"The reason this whole thing works is because the maternal estrogen level in the children in the first 3-4 weeks of life makes that cartilage (ear) as soft as it is and over time that maternal estrogen sort of wanes away and when that happens the cartilage kind of firms up," said Roy. "The molds reform the ear to a normal shape and as the cartilage hardens, the ear assumes the correct shape."
Most babies wear the molds for about 6 weeks. Parents do have to keep the molds dry to avoid infection. That's the biggest challenge for parents since babies can spit up and get moisture in the mold.
"We didn't want her to have anything to be self- conscious about," said Craven.
Craven's daughter wore the molds for 5 1/2 weeks and then used tape to maintain the shape for another 2 weeks.
Roy says not all pediatricians notice the deformity during the infant's first well visit and by the time the child is seen again a month later too much time has passed to correct it without surgery. Fortunately, that was not the case for Craven and her daughter.
"I have recommended it to other friends just because it is something that you can do at this state that would keep them from, you know, if they decided later in life they wanted to do something about the shape of their ear, it would be a surgical procedure, so I do recommend it," said Craven.