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Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Birth Defects of the Ear


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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The outer ear includes your ear lobe and your ear canal. The ear canal is the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum.

The Outer Ear

The Outer Ear

What are birth defects of the ear?

Birth defects of the ear are apparent at birth or soon afterward.

  • Your child's ear may be very small, abnormally shaped, or missing

  • Some children are missing an ear canal and may not have an eardrum, which affects their hearing

  • Doctors do surgery to make an abnormal ear look more normal

  • Children may need special devices to help them hear

How do doctors treat birth defects of the ear?

Treatment depends on what part of the ear is affected.

  • If the ear is too small or not shaped right, doctors will do surgery to rebuild the ear—they may use an artificial ear (prosthesis), tissue from the ribs, or an implant

  • If the ear canal is missing or not fully open, doctors do surgery to make a better opening

  • If the eardrum is missing or deformed, doctors can sometimes do surgery to rebuild it, but often children will need a special implanted hearing aid

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