Microtia is a congenital deformity of the external ear. The ear has three parts: external, middle and inner ear. External ear refers to the outer part of the ear which includes the pinna (externally visible cartilaginous part), auditory canal and the eardrum or tympanic membrane. In microtia, the external part of the ear (pinna) remains underdeveloped, usually malformed. It can affect either one ear (unilateral) or both the ears (bilateral). Microtia ears vary widely in appearance and are usually very small in size. It often appears like a tiny peanut shaped lobe. Microtia is often used to describe the external part but it is also associated with an absent ear canal (aural atresia) or extremely narrow ear canal (canal stenosis).
The exact cause of microtia is mostly unknown. It forms in the early stages of foetal development, during the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy. Rarely, some cases of microtia occur to be genetic, which is passed down among family members.
Microtia is clearly visible with an abnormally formed ear, which is usually smaller in size than normal.
Microtia is diagnosed at birth because the deformity is clearly visible. The doctor may conduct imaging procedures such as CT scan to look for abnormalities of the middle ear and other problems to get detailed information regarding the condition. An audiological evaluation may also be done periodically to check the hearing sensitivity.
There are no exact known ways to prevent microtia. Pregnant women can follow steps like taking extreme care, getting proper nutrition and avoiding certain medications during pregnancy.
- Microtia may not require treatment in all cases.
- Hearing loss or hearing-related problems require treatment. Hearing evaluation should be done regularly and follow-ups are required especially in early childhood.
- Reconstructive surgery may be recommended to reconstruct the affected ear.
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