Ear Deformities

What are ear deformities

Abnormal development or deformities of the ear anatomy can cause a range of complications, from cosmetic issues to hearing and development problems. Some ear deformities are present at birth, while others are acquired in nature. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia treats children and adolescents with a wide variety of ear deformities.

Normal external ear anatomy

Normal Ear ImageThe ear is shaped like the letter C, formed by the helix and the earlobe. Inside the C is the letter Y, formed by the antihelix and the superior and inferior crura. The central part of the ear is shaped like a conch sea shell, and is called the concha. There is a small bump in front of the ear canal called the tragus. On the other side of the concha is another bump called the antitragus.

The ear is made primarily of cartilage covered by skin. The earlobe has no cartilage and is made of skin and fat. Although there are some muscles attached to the ear, most people cannot control them, which is why only a small number of people can wiggle their ears. The external ear is supplied by four different sensory nerves.

Types of ear deformities

  • Protruding ears: Ears that stick out more than 2 cm from the side of the head.
  • Constricted ears: A variety of ear deformities where the helical rim is either folded over (also called lop ear), wrinkled, or tight.
  • Microtia: Underdeveloped external ear.
  • Cryptotia: Ear cartilage framework that is partially buried beneath the skin on the side of the head.
  • Anotia: Total absence of the ear.
  • Stahl's ear: Pointy ear shape and an extra cartilage fold (crus) in the scapha portion of the ear.
  • Ear tags: Also known as an accessory tragus or a branchial cleft remnant, consist of skin and cartilage.
  • Earlobe deformities: These come in a variety of shapes, including earlobes with clefts, duplicate earlobes, and earlobes with skin tags.
  • Traumatic ear deformities: Lacerations, tears and bite injuries.
  • Split earlobes: Occur gradually due to large or heavy earrings.
  • Cauliflower ear: Abnormal cartilage forms on top of the normal cartilage, resulting in bulky misshapen ears.
  • Ear keloids: Caused by excessive scar tissue formation after minor trauma, most commonly after ear piercing.
  • Ear hemangiomas: Most common benign tumor of infancy, can occur anywhere on the body, including the external ear and the salivary gland in front of the ear.

Reviewed by: David W. Low, MD
March 2013

Reviewed by David W. Low, MD on March 01, 2013