Congenital ear condition recognized on Microtia Awareness Day
If you’ve never heard of Microtia Awareness Day, you’ve likely never had a loved one with a congenital defect involving the ears, or dealt with such issues yourself. November 9 was set aside in 2010 by the nonprofit Ear Community to spread awareness of the ear condition affecting one in 9,000 children each year. The number nine was chosen to remind people of the ear, since microtia (Latin for “little ears”) interferes with the development of a baby’s ears during the first trimester of pregnancy. The condition can lead to the absence or misshaping of the ear, a shortening of the jaw bone, frequent ear infections and/or hearing loss, and its cause remains unknown.
"My heart goes out to the children and adults who have been bullied, teased or picked on because of their microtia ears or crooked smiles," writes Ear Community founder Melissa Tumblin on the website. "Some of us who are bullied are able to bounce back and move forward, but some of us just don’t have the strength, courage, or coat of armor to do the same."
Four Grades of Microtia
Microtia is extremely difficult to identify in a baby before birth, as it rarely shows up in prenatal ultrasounds. Furthermore, only a small percentage of children born with microtia appear to have a family history of the condition. Babies can be born with one of four distinct grades of microtia:
Grade 1: The ear appears to be simply undersized with a normal external anatomy, but there is often no canal or an otherwise constricted canal.
Grade 2: Some of the ear, usually the lower half, forms normally, but there is no ear canal (or a canal that is extremely narrow).
Grade 3: Underdeveloped ear “remnants” are visible, but there is no ear canal. This is the most common form of microtia.
Grade 4: While rare, some children born with microtia have no ear remnants or canal present. This is also known as anotia.
Microtia Awareness Day Educates on Treatment Options
The good news is that research and development for treatment options is ongoing, and can include prosthetics, reconstructive surgery, and even surgical options for opening a narrow ear canal to improve hearing. The proper course of treatment for a child with microtia is dependent on several factors, including their age, overall health, and grade of microtia. Specialists can help families examine all of their options and determine an individual course of action to help a child born with microtia lead a full life where confidence and self-esteem can be restored. And campaigns like Microtia Awareness Day are helping to spread the word!
Microtia is a little-known condition that can be devastating to parents who had no prior indication that their baby could be born with a congenital deformity. But with the right medical care, administered by a team of compassionate healthcare professionals, it’s possible to correct the condition and give children with microtia brighter, more positive futures!