What causes small and malformed ears and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Small and malformed ears can be a source of concern for many individuals. Whether it is due to genetics, trauma, or other factors, ear deformities can affect both the appearance and function of the ears. In this article, we will explore the causes of small and malformed ears and discuss potential treatment options.

Causes of Small Ears

Small ears, also known as microtia, can occur for various reasons. Some common causes include:

  • Genetics: Small ears can be inherited from one or both parents. Certain genetic conditions can lead to abnormal ear development.
  • Birth defects: In some cases, small ears may be a result of birth defects that affect the growth and development of the ears.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to certain medications, toxins, or infections during pregnancy can increase the risk of small ears in the baby.

It is important to note that having small ears does not necessarily indicate a medical problem. However, if the small ears are causing functional issues or significant distress, treatment options are available.

Causes of Malformed Ears

Malformed ears, also known as ear abnormalities or ear deformities, can have various causes. Some common factors contributing to malformed ears include:

  • Genetic mutations: Certain genetic mutations can disrupt the normal development of the ears, leading to malformations.
  • Trauma: Injuries to the ears, such as burns or accidents, can result in ear deformities.
  • Developmental disorders: Some developmental disorders, such as Treacher Collins syndrome or Goldenhar syndrome, can affect the structure and appearance of the ears.

Malformed ears can vary in severity, ranging from minor cosmetic concerns to more significant functional impairments. The specific treatment options will depend on the individual case and the extent of the deformity.

Treatment Options for Small and Malformed Ears

Ear Reconstruction

Ear reconstruction is a surgical procedure that aims to improve the appearance and function of small or malformed ears. This procedure can be performed on both children and adults, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences.

During ear reconstruction surgery, the surgeon may use various techniques to reshape and rebuild the ear. This can involve using cartilage grafts from other parts of the body, such as the rib or the opposite ear, to create a more natural-looking ear. The surgeon will carefully consider the patient’s unique anatomy and desired outcome to achieve the best possible results.

Ear Surgery

Ear surgery, also known as otoplasty, is another option for individuals with small or malformed ears. This procedure focuses on correcting the shape, size, or position of the ears to enhance their appearance.

Otoplasty can be performed to:

  • Pin back protruding ears
  • Resize large ears
  • Reconstruct missing or underdeveloped parts of the ear

The specific techniques used in otoplasty will depend on the individual’s unique needs and goals. The surgeon will work closely with the patient to determine the most appropriate approach for their case.


Small and malformed ears can have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem and overall well-being. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to address these concerns. Whether through ear reconstruction or otoplasty, individuals can achieve improved ear aesthetics and function.

If you or someone you know is struggling with small or malformed ears, it is recommended to consult with a qualified plastic surgeon or otolaryngologist. They can assess the specific situation and provide personalized recommendations for treatment. Remember, seeking professional advice is crucial to ensure the best possible outcome.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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