Ear Deformity

Ear deformities may be congenital (meaning you’re born with the condition). It’s also possible to develop an ear deformity later in life as a result of trauma. Most ear deformities require surgical correction. But nonsurgical treatments are an option in some cases.


Pictures of ear deformities: cryptonia, constricted ear, Stahl's ear, hemangioma, accessory tragus and cauliflower ear.
Approximately 1 in every 6,000 babies are born with a congenital ear deformity.

What are ear deformities?

An ear deformity is a condition in which your ear is misshapen. For example, your ears may be small and underdeveloped, or you may have prominent ears that stick out. While many ear deformities are cosmetic in nature, some may result in hearing loss and related developmental delays.

Some ear deformities are congenital. This means you’re born with the condition. Other ear deformities are acquired. This means the condition resulted from trauma or injury later in life.

Sometimes, healthcare providers can correct congenital ear deformities using nonsurgical treatments during the first few weeks of life. In other instances, surgical correction may be necessary when your child is a bit older — usually between the ages of 3 and 7.

People with acquired ear deformities can undergo reconstructive surgical procedures to address the issue if desired.

Ear deformity types

Common congenital ear deformities include:

  • Constricted ears. Also known as lop ear or cup ear, this type of ear deformity happens when the upper rim of your baby’s ear is tight, wrinkled or folded over.
  • Prominent ears. This refers to ears that stick out, or protrude, more than 2 centimeters from the side of your baby’s head.
  • Microtia. This condition refers to the underdevelopment of your baby’s outer (external) ear.
  • Anotia. Anotia is when your baby’s ear is missing.
  • Cryptotia. Babies with this condition have ear cartilage that’s partially buried under their skin.
  • Stahl’s ear. This condition causes your baby’s ears to have a pointy shape. Babies with Stahl’s ear also have an additional fold of cartilage on their outer ear.
  • Earlobe deformities. Conditions in this category include double earlobes and cleft (split) earlobes.
  • Accessory tragus (ear tags). Made of cartilage and skin, ear tags usually appear just in front of your baby’s ear or on their cheek. Another name for an ear tag is a brachial cleft remnant.

Common acquired ear deformities include:

  • Cauliflower ear. Common among boxers, wrestlers and mixed martial artists, cauliflower ear results from a collection of blood between your cartilage and skin. Hence the name, cauliflower ear has a bulbous appearance.
  • Ear keloids. This refers to excessive scar tissue. You can get keloids anywhere on your body. But keloids on your ear are most likely due to piercings.
  • Hemangiomas. These noncancerous growths consist of extra blood vessels. People of all ages can get hemangiomas. They can appear anywhere on your body, including your outer ear and the salivary gland in front of your ear. (In some cases, hemangiomas may be congenital.)
  • Trauma-related ear deformities. Tears, lacerations (cuts) and wounds can all result in ear deformities.
  • Split earlobes. Wearing extremely large or heavy earrings can result in split earlobes.

How common are congenital ear deformities?

Congenital ear deformities are common. About 1 in every 6,000 babies is born with an ear deformity.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of ear deformity?

Most ear deformities are visible at birth. But other, less noticeable symptoms — especially among children — may include:

What causes ear deformities?

Experts don’t fully understand why some people are born with ear deformities. But congenital ear deformity causes may include:

  • A lack of blood supply during fetal development (possibly due to your baby’s position in the uterus).
  • Genetic disorders passed from a biological parent to their child.
  • Prenatal exposure to certain medications, such as thalidomide or isotretinoin.

Acquired ear deformity causes may include:

  • Trauma or injury.
  • Tumors.


Diagnosis and Tests

How are ear deformities diagnosed?

In cases of congenital ear deformities, healthcare providers usually diagnose the condition at birth. They’ll perform a physical examination of your baby’s ears and look inside their ear canals with an otoscope (an instrument with a small light and magnifying lens).

If you developed an acquired ear deformity due to trauma, a healthcare provider will examine your ear and ask about your symptoms. They may request additional testing, such as X-ray imaging, depending on your situation.

Management and Treatment

Can ear deformities be fixed?

Yes, healthcare providers can correct both congenital and acquired ear deformities. Treatment depends on the situation and may include:

  • Ear molding. This procedure can correct many congenital ear deformities when performed within the first several weeks of life. During ear molding, a healthcare provider places a custom-made mold over your baby’s ear. The custom mold gradually reshapes your baby’s ear over time. This treatment usually takes about two to four weeks.
  • Surgery. Healthcare providers use a surgical approach (otoplasty) to correct acquired ear deformities and congenital ear deformities that weren’t — or couldn’t be — treated with ear molding.



Are ear deformities preventable?

Many congenital ear deformities are a result of genetic conditions. So, total prevention isn’t possible. However, you can reduce your risk for acquired ear deformities by wearing proper protective equipment during contact sports.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if my baby has an ear deformity?

If your baby has an ear deformity, your healthcare provider will likely recommend ear molding or surgery. When performed in a timely manner, correction success rates are over 90%.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

If your baby was born with an ear deformity, your healthcare provider will likely monitor their progress regularly. They’ll recommend treatment that’s tailored to your baby’s unique needs.

If you or a loved one has developed an acquired ear deformity due to trauma, call a healthcare provider right away. Prompt treatment is essential and may reduce your risk of long-term issues like hearing loss.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

If you or your baby has an ear deformity, here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • When should I schedule treatment?
  • Is this strictly a cosmetic issue?
  • Does my baby have hearing loss?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

It’s normal to worry if your baby is born with an ear deformity. The good news is that healthcare providers can usually correct the issue with treatment. If you developed an acquired ear deformity as a result of injury, it’s important to see a healthcare provider right away. Prompt treatment can ease your symptoms and reduce your risk for further issues.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/11/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.8500