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DALLAS - Deformed ears can can be the source of embarrassment, especially for children. Now, a North Texas doctor has invented a device for newborns that can prevent them from going under the knife later in life.

Of course, she's perfect, said Amanda McNew of her six-week-old baby girl. Look at her.

But, little Carson's two ears at birth weren't quite so perfect.

She was born about five weeks early and her ears kind of folded over on the top, said McNew, a WFAA producer. And, I thought it was part of delivery. She's my first baby.

McNew said three doctors saw her newborn baby and never said anything about her ears.

When we saw our pediatrician, he asked if we were going to do anything about her ears, she said.

That is when the doctor informed McNew her child's deformed ears would stay that way unless something was done. McNew was told her daughter would need plastic surgery one day to fix the deformity.

Instead, at just nine days old, she was fitted with ear molds at Children's Medical Center. The plastic devices, called EarWells, fit gently over a baby's ears. It reshapes cartilage by holding the ear in perfect position.

The key, said Dr. Steven Byrd, a pediatric plastic-craniofacial surgeon who invented the EarWell, is fitting the molds when the child is less than 10 days old, which is when flexible baby ears apparently contain certain hormones.

So, what's happening is if we hold it the way it should be in a normal shape, the estrogen disappears as the baby gets older and the hyalaronic acid disappears from the cartilage and locks it into shape, Byrd said.

Byrd said when caught early, the results are often better than surgery.

The device is so new, many pediatricians and hospitals don't know about them. The EarWells are covered by many insurance companies

Some ears improve on their own over time. However, doctors can't predict which ones will self correct.

McNew said she wanted to avoid an expensive and potentially traumatic cosmetic surgery for her daughter later on.

There's no pain these, she said. She can sleep in these, she moves in them [and] they don't bother her at all. So, it's so worth it.

In six to 12 weeks, Carson's ears will be just as perfect as the rest of her.

E-mail: jstjames@wfaa.com

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