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Reshaping baby's ears without surgery must start early

Close up of three month old twin Liam

Close up of three month old twin Liam Faeth, who along with his twin brother, had a non-surgical procedure called ear molding. Credit: Uli Seit

Q. Is there a nonsurgical way to help a baby born with protruding or misshapen ears?

A. Parents should consult with a pediatric plastic surgeon immediately, because if the problem is addressed during the first three or four weeks of life, ear cartilage is still soft enough to be reshaped without surgery or anesthesia in 90 percent of cases, says Dr. Nicholas Bastidas, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. "The earlier the intervention the better," Bastidas says.

Bastidas uses a technique called ear molding on ears that stick out like Dumbo, or fold over, or look elfin, or are pointed like Dr. Spock on "Star Trek." A piece of silicone cups around the exterior of the ear, and soft silicone retainer clips hold the cartilage in the desired position. Think of it as braces for the ears. In most cases, the device is left on for three to four weeks, the procedure is covered by insurance and the improvement is permanent, Bastidas says.

Suzanne Faeth, 43, of Floral Park, says using ear molding to correct her fraternal twin newborns' ear anomalies was "a no-brainer." She and husband Michael, 39, and big brother, Thomas, 9, appeared with 3-month-old twins Gavin and Liam at a news conference at Cohen last week to show off the results.

"Life can be hard enough sometimes, especially as a teenager," Suzanne says. Fixing the twins' ears will save them from teasing when they are older, she says. It will also enable eyeglasses to fit correctly if the boys need them in the future, Bastidas says.

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