Girl Child was born with a birth defect called atresia/microtia. Translated into non-medical speak, she was born without an ear canal or outer ear, called the Pinna.
Her manifestation of the birth defect is what’s known as a Grade III. There are varying degrees of severity to this birth defect, and Grade III is relatively severe.
There are a few options that parents and children have to “deal” with this. I use “deal” in quotes because I want to make it perfectly clear that you, the parent of a child with atresia microtia, can choose to see your child as perfectly perfect just as they are. Because they are perfectly perfect, whole human beings.
Atresia Microtia Options
Some parents choose to leave the ear completely alone. If that’s the path you choose, it is likely that your child will be helped by a device called a BAHA – Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid. This type of hearing aid helps boost hearing using bone conduction. Bone conduction is the transmission of sound to the inner ear via the bones of the skull. This is an emerging technology for uses beyond the scope of hearing improvement. Also, there are options for your child as far as type of aid, etc.
Some people choose to outfit their child with a prosthetic. This is minimally invasive. There are two primary reasons, in my opinion, why people choose this option: 1) it’s minimally invasive, and 2) A canalplasty, or atresia repair, is not medically indicated. In other words, the internal anatomy of the ear is not conducive to building an ear canal to enhance hearing. 3) Personal choice. Emerging technology with 3D printing makes this option a very exciting prospect for the future.
Another option for atresia microtia repair is a reconstructive surgery called Rib Graft implant. This method of reconstruction has been “around” in the medical community the longest, and consists of a series of surgeries. A piece of the child’s own rib cartilage is “harvested” and reshaped into the outer ear (called the pinna). Then, skin grafting takes place. After the graft has healed, an ear canal is built, called a canalplasty.
The third option, and the one we chose, is called a Medpor implant. Medpor is a medical grade plastic that can be used in cartilage replacement. The reason we chose this option is because it seemed, at the time, to be the least invasive and painful. Harvesting her rib cartilage really turned us off. That said, among the people within this community, people choose Rib Graft frequently for their own reasons.
This is a highly nuanced conversation. There are strong opinions regarding whether or not to have surgery, whether or not to go with a bone-anchored device, and every possible conversation you can imagine about your child’s body integrity, weighing risks vs. benefits, and your own level of comfort. It can feel totally overwhelming. One step at a time.
One of the most valuable resources available to parents and adults with Atresia Microtia:
Ear Community: http://earcommunity.com/microtiaatresia/
Remember – your child is a perfectly perfect human being. We have found ourselves far enough along the road of our daughter’s development to realize this has shaped her in positive ways we couldn’t possibly have known or seen when she was small. Read more about the adventures of our Girl Child here, and you’ll see.