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Pinna abnormalities and low-set ears

Contents of this page:


Ear abnormalities
Ear abnormalities
Pinna of the newborn ear
Pinna of the newborn ear

Alternative Names    Return to top

Low-set ears

Definition    Return to top

Pinna abnormalities and low-set ears refer to abnormalities in the shape or position of the outer ear (pinna or auricle).

Considerations    Return to top

During fetal development, the outer ear or "pinna" forms at a time when many other critical organs are developing (such as the kidneys). Abnormalities in the shape or positioning of the pinna may be an indication that there are other associated abnormalities present.

Common abnormalities include abnormal folds in the pinna, prominence of the ears, low-set positioning, abnormal rotation of the pinna, and even absence of the pinna.

Many children are born with ears that stick out (protruding ears). Although people may comment on the ear shape, this condition is a variation of normal and is not associated with other disorders. However, low-set ears, absent pinna, and abnormal folds may be associated with various medical conditions.

Causes    Return to top

The following common conditions are associated with low-set and malformed ears:

Rare conditions associated with low-set and malformed ears include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call if you notice abnormally shaped or positioned ears.

In most cases, pinna abnormalities are found by a health care provider during the first well baby exam. This exam is usually performed at the hospital, if that is where the baby is delivered.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

The doctor will ask medical history questions such as:

To determine if the pinna is abnormal, the doctor will conduct a series of measurements with a tape measure. Other parts of the body will be also measured, including the eyes, hands, and feet.

All newborns should have a hearing test. A child with pinna abnormalities should also have a hearing test. Examination for any mental development changes may be performed as the child grows. Genetic testing may also be done.

No treatment is needed for pinna abnormalities, as they do not affect the hearing. However, sometimes cosmetic surgery is recommended.

Update Date: 11/14/2007

Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, M.D., M.P.H., Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

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