National Microtia Awareness Day
annually on November 9th (since 2016)
The Ear Community Organization in 2016
National Microtia Awareness Day is dedicated to promoting public awareness about microtia and aural atresia, two congenital disorders or conditions that affect the ear. Microtia is a condition that can affect one or both ears, in which the outer ear is underdeveloped or completely missing. It happens during the first trimester of pregnancy when an ear would normally develop. It is unknown why it happens, and it is not known if it is hereditary. About one in 9,000 children in the United States are born with the condition. Males are more often affected than females, and the right ear is more often affected than the left. Those with microtia often grow up being bullied and dealing with social acceptance because of their appearance. Aural atresia is a condition where there is no ear canal or it is underdeveloped, which can result in conductive hearing loss. Both microtia and aural atresia can lead to hemifacial microsomia, an asymmetry of the face.
A few things can be done to remedy these conditions. For those with microtia, surgery can be used to reconstruct the outer ear. The most sought after is the rib graft surgical technique, but other types of soft tissue reconstruction can be done as well, and there are polyethylene ear options such as Medpor, Su-por, and Omnipore. A prosthetic ear is also an option. Ear expanders can be used to improve ear shape as well. For those with aural atresia, the ear canal can be reconstructed and hearing loss can be remedied by a procedure known as canalplasty or atresiaplasty. A bone conduction hearing device—such as a BAHA, BAHS, or BAI—can also be worn or implanted.
Organizations and resources that can offer information and support are sought out and learned about today. They can play a large role in helping to combat bullying and to address issues of social acceptance. Schools help raise awareness with students by having conversations about the conditions and about hearing devices. Medical professionals, hearing device companies, and medical device companies use the day to post information on social media about the conditions.
The Ear Community created National Microtia Awareness Day. Melissa Tumblin, a mother of a child with microtia, started the organization in 2010, to bring people together to share experiences and resources about microtia. Her hope for National Microtia Awareness Day is that it will help parents with newborns who have microtia to leave the hospital with answers to questions they have about the disorder and that they won't be discouraged by it. Her belief is that the more people know about microtia and atresia, the more accepting and kind they will be to those who have it. Her goal with the day is that people born with the conditions will realize they aren't alone: others have the disorders, and there is a community behind them, supporting them.
How to Observe
Observation of the day should be centered on raising awareness about microtia and aural atresia. In schools, talks about the conditions, and discussions that focus on inclusion, differences, and kindness are participated in by teachers, parents, and students. Some families have even been known to make treats to bring to school on the day. You could participate in schools as you see fit. Medical professionals—such as audiologists, plastic surgeons, and ENTs—host educational clinics, share information about the condition and write about it online. If you are in one of these positions, you could use your role to enlighten others. Awareness ribbons, bracelets, and T-shirts can be purchased from the Ear Community website, and you can also change your online profile picture to an awareness ribbon.