Bat ears are ears that protrude from a person’s head more than is considered normal. These types of ears do not affect a person’s hearing, but children who have this condition may be teased by their peers. Surgery for bat ears, called otoplasty, is almost always purely cosmetic. Many doctors instruct parents to wait and see if their child’s ears correct themselves with age.
Many people believe bat ears are formed when an infant is allowed to sleep on his side or because they were tugged on a lot. The real cause of bat ears occurs while a baby is still in his mother’s womb. A part of the ears that keeps them close to the head may not develop as quickly as the rest of the body does, resulting in ears that stick out instead of resting flatter against the head.
Children with bat ears may experience teasing and name calling from their peers and other people who are not sensitive to their feelings. Many parents decide to get otoplasty for their children to avoid this potential trauma. Otoplasty is a surgery in which a doctor will cut into cartilage, called an antihelical fold, on the back of a person’s ear. The doctor will then pin the ear to the head with stitches, and a bandage will be placed around the head for about a week to keep the ear and the stitches in place. Many doctors decline to perform the surgery on children under the age of 5.
Another option that many parents utilize is splinting. If it is recognized that an infant has bat ears, the ears can be splinted to the head using a silicone-covered wire splint for about two weeks. This procedure may prove useful in eliminating protruding ears in infants and do away with the potential desire for surgery in the future. Bat ears function normally, and surgery is usually done purely for cosmetic reasons. One exception is when otoplasty is performed because bat ears interfere with a person's ability to wear a hearing aid.
Otoplasty is considered minor surgery and can be performed under local anesthetic in just a few hours. While it seems to work well for the correction of bat ears, it is not perfect. People considering the surgery should remember that infections and mistakes can occur. Necrosis, bleeding and scarring may result from this surgery and, while it is considered cosmetic, many doctors caution parents to not expect perfect ears after surgery.