KidsMD Health Topics

Microtia in Children

  • Overview

    "While it can be upsetting to see your child with an abnormal ear, it's good to keep in mind that most children still have some hearing out of the ear and that the ear can be repaired."

    When your baby was born, your first emotion was probably joy. Then, you (or your doctor) noticed something was slightly wrong: Your baby’s ear seemed abnormally small, malformed or possibly even missing.

    You likely wondered, “Why my baby?” or “What did I do wrong?”

    It’s common for parents to have questions like this when their baby is born with a congenital anomaly or birth defect. And while it can be upsetting to see your child with an abnormal ear, it’s good to keep in mind that most children still have some hearing out of the affected ear and that the ear can be repaired. We’ve put together some information that can help you learn about what microtia is—and how our experts at Children’s Hospital Boston can help you.

    Here’s what you need to know about microtia:

    • Microtia is a congenital condition in which a baby is born without one or both external ears or with an ear deformity.
    • Microtia can affect one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ears.
    • The unilateral form is much more common, occurring in about 90 percent of affected children..
    • Microtia occurs in one in about 6,000 babies.
    • In most cases, there is only about a 40 percent reduction in hearing of the affected ear. Most children with microtia have normally developed inner ear canals with an absence of the external ear.
    • Surgeons can surgically construct a new ear for your child.

    For more information about treatment options, see our Treatment & Care section.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches microtia
    At Children’s, our surgeons are skilled at both repairing malformed ears and building new ears. Our dedicated Microtia Program is within our Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, which performs more than 2,000 surgeries a year and cares for over 13,000 outpatient visitors annually.

    Surgeons in our Microtia Program typically perform an autologous (using your child’s own tissue) reconstruction.

    In this procedure, a new ear is made from your child’s rib cartilage and placed under the skin on the side of the scalp where the ear would be. In addition, the surgeon refines and repositions the ear lobe and reconstructs the contour of the ear. For more information on this procedure, see our Treatment & Care section.

    Help for hearing loss
    Children’s Diagnostic Audiology Program offers expert evaluation and management of infants, children and adolescents with various degrees of hearing loss.



    Reviewed by Arin K. Greene, MD, MMSc

    ©Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2011

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