Hayley and Reggie won the Ear of the Month Award in September 2014. We caught up Hayley a year later to see how they were getting on.
What made you first look for EarBuddies in the first place?
Hayley: When he was born, the midwife very kindly pointed out to us that he has stick-out ears. She was saying it lovingly, but his father does have stick out ears so I was quite conscious of it. So during the first week I was home, I was googling ‘babies stick out ears’ on the internet, and came across the EarBuddies Website. Everything I read about it seemed harmless, easy to use, with no potential side effects on newborns, so I thought it was worth a try.
How long was it before you started to fit EarBuddies?
Hayley: I actually bought him here, to the Portland (Hospital, London), and had Rachel Hall, David Gault’s clinical nurse, fit them for me, because when I ordered them off the internet, and first started about thinking about it, I was concerned about trying to fit them myself because I think there’s a real concern that you may do some damage, so I didn’t want to fit them myself if there was an alternative.
Did your midwife know anything about EarBuddies?
Hayley: No. None of the health visitors, midwives, GP,m or hearing specialist, had heard anything about them. However, after I had them fitted, at 2 weeks old, he was still seeing the health visitors regularly. They were all really interested to know more about them, and the GP he was seeing at the time actually made a point of taking one of the leaflets I had into his next staff meeting to inform the rest of the staff about it.
Do you think that professional fitting helped?
Hayley: Absolutely. It just gave me the peace of mind that when I came to do it the next time around, I would be doing it correctly. So I took the tape off after 2 weeks after the initial fitting, and having gone through the process very slowly with my fitter, fitting was a very easy process. Had I not been shown how to do it professionally, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it myself, and would have been tempted to remove the tapes every 2 days, just to check I hadn’t done something wrong.
How long in total did you keep the EarBuddies on for?
Hayley: He was only 2 weeks old when I started. I applied the second lot of tapes two weeks into fitting, and they had been on for a total of four weeks. The results were just incredible, it was amazing! Because it wasn’t so much just that his ears stuck out; he didn’t have the folds in his ears, and the splint had created those folds. So I was very impressed after a month, but because I was solely breastfeeding, I wanted to keep doing it for longer because I knew that the cartilage takes longer to harden if they’re being breast fed. So after the month I continued to do it (splint) until he was, I think, about 4 and a half months old. By that point, I think when he was about 3 months old, he started getting a bit more hair, and he had started sweating overnight. I didn’t realise that’s what it was, but his skin was getting little inflamed between the back of his ear and his head. So I had to wait till that cleared up before I put them back on again. I thought at that point that I must be doing something wrong, even though I wasn’t bathing him in the tub, and was making a real effort in general not to get them wet. But in hindsight now, I realise it was his sweating overnight.
I persisted with it so long because I was solely breastfeeding, although I was perfectly happy with how it was. Then, when it came time for me to stop breastfeeding, (he was about 8 months old), I wanted to fit them again for the month or so before then, just to ensure that they hardened exactly as I wanted, but because he was so sweaty, it was a little difficult.
These days, we recommend that parents use a special barrier cream (Medihoney) and film (Cavilon), so inflammation is becoming less and less of an problem now. (NOTE: It is still important to avoid excessive sweating and moisture around the tapes.) The development is such that we’ve been able to treat babies even as old as 4 years, with some really spectacular results. How much of a difference do you think it has made to his ear?
Hayley: When he was born, and when I look back at photos, they just look like a hollow cup basically. There were no folds, they looked quite dark, where as now they sit relatively flat back on his head. I think its made an incredible difference. I am definitely happier than had I not tried it. It always would have been in the back of my mind that I could have done something about it.
What would be your advice for parents using EarBuddies in the future?
Hayley: To get started absolutely as early as possible. They’re so easy to fit when they’re newborns. As soon as he fell asleep, I’d start putting them on. It took 5 minutes to apply each one, and he didn’t feel a thing, he didn’t wriggle around, he wasn’t conscious of them when he woke up, he wasn’t pulling the tape. It’s so easy to clean and bathe them as a newborn, without getting them wet. So I think that its absolutely key. And the other thing is persistence. Be persistent. And as difficult as some people may find it, try not to be too sensitive to what other people think. I didn’t use a bandana or a hat on him. I got questions about what the situation was, and was more than happy to talk about it, but I know that some people are very conscious about it, and they may interfere with the process by taking them off when the child’s going out in public. I think the more questions you get asked, the more comfortable you become talking about it, so just be proud.