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What is constricted ear?

Constricted ear — also known as cup ear or lop ear — is a malformation of the helix, or outer rim, of the ear. It can vary from mild to severe. The rim of the ear can be folded forward slightly, giving the appearance of a cup, or more severely, with the entire outer ear appearing as a roll. The constricted ear often appears smaller than the unaffected ear. The malformed cartilage can cause the ear to protrude from the side of a child’s head.

What causes constricted ear?

It is unknown what causes the malformation, but it is believed to be from a shortage of skin or cartilage, or both.

Constricted Ear | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is constricted ear diagnosed?

Constricted ear is often diagnosed at birth through a physical exam. Your child’s provider will examine the ear and determine the type and severity of the constriction. Your child’s provider may also examine the ear using an otoscope to look inside the ear.

How is constricted ear treated?

If the condition is diagnosed in the first few weeks after birth, your baby can undergo a non-surgical treatment called ear molding, in which a plastic splint can be placed under the helix, or outer rim, of the ear. This procedure can improve the shape of the ear while cartilage is still flexible.

If the condition is severe or not diagnosed until after your child is older and the ear is less flexible, surgery is an option. At this stage, treatment depends on the severity of the malformation and whether one ear or both ears are affected. One type of reconstruction surgery reshapes existing ear cartilage, and it could involve using cartilage from the ribs. If your child’s ears protrude from the side of their head, another type of surgery uses otoplasty techniques such as incision, scoring, and suturing to correct the malformation.

How we care for constricted ear

Understanding treatment options is critical in preparing the plan that’s right for your child. Our specialized, experienced team at the Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital will fully explain the treatments that can best address your child's individual needs, as we include your family in every step of treatment.

Constricted Ear | Programs & Services