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Constricted Ears

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
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What Are Constricted Ears?

Constricted ears (sometimes called lop ears or cup ears) means that the outer part of the ear is either wrinkled, folded, or flat. Children with constricted ears are born with them. The condition can affect one or both ears.

Constricted ears don’t cause any medical problems, so they don’t have to be treated. But if parents or the child want the ears fixed, treatments can help.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Constricted Ears?

Most kids with constricted ears don’t have other symptoms and the condition usually doesn’t affect hearing.  

What Causes Constricted Ears?

Usually, constricted ears happen when the skin or on the outside part of a baby’s ear didn’t develop normally before birth. Doctors don’t know why this happens, but it can be related to the baby’s position in the womb. If the ear pushes against the side of the womb, the blood supply can be cut off and the ear may not form normally.

How Are Constricted Ears Diagnosed?

Constricted ears can usually be seen when a baby is born. Doctors diagnose it by doing an exam. Other tests usually are not needed.

How Are Constricted Ears Treated?

Constricted ears don’t always need treatment. But sometimes a child or parent may not like the way they look, or a child may get teased. Then, treatment can help. What’s used depends on how old the child is. 

A newborn’s ears are very soft and flexible, so doctors can try ear molding in the first few weeks of life. The ear mold fits on the outer ear and gently reshapes it. The baby wears the ear mold 24 hours a day for a few weeks.

Ear molding won’t work for older babies (their ears get less soft and flexible) and children. In those cases, doctors can do surgery when the child is about 4–6 years old. For mildly constricted ears, the surgeon can use cartilage in the ear to reshape the ear. For a more severely constricted ear, the surgeon may need to get the cartilage from another part of the child’s body (for example, a rib).

What Else Should I Know?

Constricted ears don’t always need to be treated, but doctors can reshape them if parents or the child want treatment. If your child wants reshaped ears, ask their doctor about treatments that might help.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023