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Ear Pits

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
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What Is an Ear Pit?

An ear pit is a small opening (about the size of a pinhead) in front of the ear that some babies are born with. Ear pits are common and usually don’t cause problems or need treatment.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of an Ear Pit?

An ear pit, also called a preauricular (pree-aw-RIK-yuh-ler) pit, looks like a small hole in front of the ear. It can happen on one or both ears. The ear pit opens into a thin tunnel (called a tract) under the skin. Germs can get into the tract, causing an infection that leads to swelling, soreness, and redness around the ear pit.

Most babies with an ear pit are healthy. Occasionally, a child with an ear pit may have hearing loss.

What Causes an Ear Pit?

An ear pit happens early in pregnancy when the baby is just starting to form. The parts of the ear don’t come together quite right and the tract and ear pit form. Why this happens isn’t clear. Ear pits can run in families. Rarely, they are part of genetic syndromes that also cause hearing loss and kidney problems.

How Are Ear Pits Diagnosed?

Usually, doctors will see and diagnose an ear pit at birth. They’ll do an exam to make sure the baby has no medical problems. Most babies get a hearing test as a part of regular newborn screening. If the hearing test results show a problem, the doctor will order more tests.

How Are Ear Pits Treated?

Most ear pits don’t need treatment. If an infection happens, doctors treat it with antibiotics. An ear pit that gets infected a lot can be removed with surgery. To do this, the surgeon takes out the tract and closes the hole.

What Else Should I Know?

Most children with ear pits are healthy and have normal hearing. Follow your doctor’s instructions on whether any follow-up care is needed. Because infections can happen, call your doctor if the pit gets red or swollen, or has pus coming from it.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: September 2022