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Protruding Ears

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
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What Are Protruding Ears?

Protruding ears (sometimes called prominent ears) are ears that stick out from the side of the head. Children with protruding ears are born with them, and usually it affects both ears.

Protruding ears don’t cause any medical problems so they don’t have to be treated. But if parents or the child want the ears fixed, treatments can help.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Protruding Ears?

Most kids with protruding ears don’t have other symptoms and the condition usually doesn’t affect hearing.

What Causes Protruding Ears?

Usually, protruding ears happen because the fold on the outside part of a baby’s ear didn’t develop normally before birth. Doctors don’t know why this happens, but it might be related to the baby’s position in the womb. If the ear pushes against the side of the womb, the blood supply can be cut off and the ear may not form normally. Sometimes, protruding ears can run in a family.

How Are Protruding Ears Diagnosed?

Protruding ears can usually be seen when a baby is born. Doctors diagnose it by doing an exam. Other tests usually are not needed.

How Are Protruding Ears Treated?

Protruding ears don’t need treatment. But sometimes a child or parent may not like the way they look, or a child may get teased. Then, treatment can help. What’s used depends on how old the child is.

A newborn’s ears are very soft and flexible, so doctors can try ear molding in the first few weeks of life. They place an ear mold on the outer ear, which gently reshapes it and brings it closer to the head. The baby wears the ear mold 24 hours a day for a few weeks.

Ear molding won’t work for older babies (their ears get less soft and flexible) and children. In those cases, doctors can do surgery when the child is about 4–6 years old.

What Else Should I Know?

If your child wants their ears to stick out less, ask their doctor about treatments that might help.

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023