Ear splinting is a simple and safe procedure often performed on newborn babies to correct protruding ears.

It is usually carried out within the first three months of birth because this is when it is most likely to be effective.

Ear splinting is only carried out in infants under six months old. After six months, the cartilage in the ear becomes too hard to be remodelled with splints and surgery is the only treatment option.

Information on ear correction surgery, or otoplasty, is provided elsewhere (read about ear correction surgery).

What does splinting involve?

Ear splints are available in some GP surgeries. 

It is a simple and painless procedure. Splinting involves resetting the soft cartilage and using small splints (supports) to keep the ear in the new position. 

The splints are kept in place by small strips of tape. The baby's ear will be taped to the side of their head with a larger piece of tape.

There may be slight skin irritation from the tape used to hold the splints in place, although this is rare.

How long do the splints need to stay on?

The length of time splinting is required depends on when treatment begins. The earlier splinting is started, the less time the splints will be needed.

For example, if splinting starts when an infant is a few weeks old, it will only be needed for around two weeks.

However, if splinting starts when your child is four or five months old, the splints will be needed for a few months.

Is splinting effective?

If carried out during the first four weeks of life (the neonatal period), ear splinting is usually very effective at correcting a child's protruding ears and preventing the need for surgery later in life.

Page last reviewed: 17/10/2014

Next review due: 17/10/2017