Microtia is a congenital occurrence where the external ear is underdeveloped. The outer ear may be small, malformed, or absent. The name comes from the Latin words meaning little ear. This condition can be unilateral (one side only) or bilateral (affecting both sides). The exact cause for microtia is unknown, though the CDC recently cited maternal diabetes and mother's diet likely risk factors for microtia. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/anotia-microtia.html) Approximately one in every 9,000 children is born with microtia. Microtia is often accompanied by atresia or the absence/closure of the external auditory ear canal (atresia is Latin for absence of an opening). A child with microtia encounters hearing impairment due to the loss of outer ear structures.
For a child with microtia, establishing optimal hearing is of utmost priority. This can usually be accomplished with a bone assisted hearing device. This type of hearing aide vibrates the skull, sending vibrations to the bones surrounding the cochlea, where hearing signal is received and sent to the brain. Essentially bypassing the ear canal and getting sound inside one's head. Initially this hearing device may be worn with a soft band around the child's head until appropriate skull growth has occurred.
Once the child is big enough, titanium rods or abutments are placed into the child's skull, where the hearing device can be attached. If a child has microtia bilaterallly, then two hearing devices, one on each side, are recommended for the best surround sound hearing.
Once hearing is established, it is recommended that a family take their time to explore ear reconstructive options. There are four major options available, with new progress being made daily! Options include 1. Rib graft-taking a child's own rib cartilage to create their new ear structure 2. Medpor ear implant with a skin flap placed over new ear 3. Ear prosthesis that can be removed as needed 4. No corrective surgery. Each of these options come with their own pros and cons, making the decision process challenging. Add in the social stress that can accompany microtia, and it is hard for parents to know what is best for their child.
Because of these challenges, it is important for those with microtia to realize there is a community of support, information, early intervention, and awareness available to children, adults, and family members. EAR COMMUNITY was created to provide awareness and information for those encountering microtia/atresia in their own life or one of a family member. Earcommunity.org is available worldwide and provides information on hearing devices, surgery, emotional support, and daily living with microtia.
It is with great excitement that Ear Community announces NOVEMBER 9th to be the first annual National Microtia Awareness Day!!! This day will be used to provide awareness on microtia and education on resources available. We want to encourage any who are interested to support this FIRST annual day by purchasing a microtia awarenss t-shirt and wear it on November 9th. The Hurleys will be taking pictures in our blue ribbon shirts and posting them on social media using #MicrotiaAwarenessDay #EarCommunity. The deadline for ordering tshirts in time is November 1st so get your official tshirt HERE! All tshirt proceeds will go to support children and adults with microtia and atresia. (As a side note, most hearing assistive devices are not covered by insurance so your money will likely help others HEAR!)
So there you have it......a big announcement and a bit more information on microtia. You can read the official press release HERE. Thank you for your support!