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Dumbo, Yoda, Spock, Big Ears, FA Cup...?
Will your new baby be teased about their ears as they grow up?
Stick-out or funny-looking ears can make life miserable and surgery was once the only solution. Now there's an ingenious way of correcting the problem in babies. Ear Buddies are tiny splints which encourage the cartilage of baby ears to harden in the correct shape and position.
"Parents are often falsely reassured that their child will grow into their ears," says David Gault FRCS, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at London's Portland Hospital for Women and Children. "The very opposite is usually the case – the ears can look normal at birth, and parents are relieved, especially if there is a family history. Over the next three to six months, as the ear cartilage starts to harden, the ears slowly drift outwards. Often it's a chance comment by a friend or relative that draws parents' attention to what can be a lifetime source of embarrassment if uncorrected. Splintage offers a real chance to avoid an operation, and all the teasing that comes before it. If Ear Buddies are used early, sticking-out or odd-looking ears can become a thing of the past."
Dr Jane Collins, Chief Executive and Honorary Consultant Paediatrican, Great Ormond Street Hospital, The Times 2006
"Many ear deformities can be corrected at birth by a splintage device, which is essentially what Ear Buddies provides. The cartilage in the ear is floppy at birth because of the effect of oestrogen, a hormone produced by the mother, on its structure.It slowly hardens into adulthood but this happens most rapidly between birth and one year. During this period, splintage can work really well. In a newborn it can correct a deformed or sticking-out ear within two weeks; in a three-month-old within ten weeks. At birth, the sweat and oil glands of the skin are poorly developed, so the tapes needed for splintage stick well, the baby barely moves and the cartilage is highly re-mouldable.
Without any treatment, a prominent ear can become worse as a baby begins to turn his head and catch it on his shoulder. The older the child, the more difficult the splintage."
"Splints are comfortable and children usually tolerate them surprisingly well. Failing this, surgery is best left until after 5 to allow the cartilage to harden enough to hold the stitches.
If you are interested in trying splints, ask your GP for a referral to your nearest paediatric plastic surgeon. Ear Buddies are available on the NHS in some plastic surgery units."