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Otoplasty (Ear Surgery)


As one of the most prominent features of the facial area, the size and shape of the ears make a big difference in overall appearance. Ears that are too large, droopy, or that have been damaged or torn in some way can cause an unbalance of your facial proportions. Ear surgery is performed for several different reasons, all directly related to your appearance. The varying procedures will surgically correct your ears by reshaping, repositioning, or removing some of the underlying cartilage, removing excess earlobe tissue, inserting a small implant, or reconstructing earlobes that have been damaged. Each of the surgical procedures is permanent and utilizes local anesthesia, local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia.

Who is a Candidate for Ear Surgery?

Ear surgery is safe for adults, teenagers, and children; however, your child’s ears will need to have reached their full size before undergoing ear surgery. This is generally around age 5, but your surgeon will be best able to determine this information for you as you will need to make sure that their ear cartilage is stable enough to sustain surgical correction. It may also be wise to make sure they are old enough to understand the process to limit the amount of fear they may experience. Otherwise, if your child is in good health, has never been treated for chronic ear infections, and is without any type of life-threatening illness, they are likely a good candidate for ear surgery. Similarly, teenagers and adults who are in good health with no life-threatening illnesses and without medical conditions that can impair healing are good candidates.

Types of Ear Surgery

Ear Pinning: An ear pinning surgery, or otoplasty, focuses on correcting protruding ears and restoring symmetry by making large ears more proportional to the face. This is done by reshaping the cartilage and may include the removal of loose skin or excess cartilage, depending on the initial ear size. After the surgery is complete, your plastic surgeon will reposition projecting ears closer to the sides of your head, ensuring less prominent ears and a more balanced aesthetic overall.

EarFold: An earFold surgery corrects the problem of protruding ears through the use of a small implant surgically embedded underneath the skin of your ear. This implant improves the appearance of your ears, giving them a new and desirable shape.

Earlobe Reduction: An earlobe reduction surgery works to correct large, pendulous (excessively drooping, sagging, or hanging) ears. This unsightly condition can be hereditary or simply a side effect of aging. Either way, earlobe reduction surgery removes the excess earlobe tissue that you find unattractive, revealing a more pleasing geometric ear shape.

Earlobe Surgery: Earlobe surgery is performed to restore a natural appearance to earlobes that have undergone some sort of tearing, stretching, trauma, piercing, or gauging. Gauging refers to the process by which individuals place ear gauges into their earlobes, stretching the center of the earlobe and causing it to heal into an open, hanging circle in place of a regular earlobe and weakening the earlobe itself.

Recovery Overview

Earlobe Surgery and earFold require a maximum recovery time of 2 weeks, while ear pinning requires between 2-3 weeks of recovery. The recovery essentials vary slightly with each variation, but compared to other corrective cosmetic surgeries, such as a facelift, recovery is relatively minimal. It should be noted that, although it may seem alarming, it is normal to experience ear drainage after an ear pinning surgery. This will be a thick, dark substance combined with blood that should be cleaned with a peroxide solution. Sneezing or coughing with your mouth open could cause pain and harm to your ear and is best avoided. An earFold surgery requires cleanliness and dryness of the area, but most activities can be resumed immediately. For those recovering from an earlobe surgery, you are permitted to resume normal exercise and activities almost immediately, but you should refrain from sleeping on your ears or placing pressure on the repaired areas until your surgeon removes your sutures (approximately 1-week post-op) and gives you the all-clear.

The Takehome Message

Questions to Ask During a Consultation

Before you go to your initial consultation, it is a good idea to begin writing down the questions you may have regarding your or your child’s ear surgery. Below is a list of questions you might find helpful as you create your list:

  • Why is this the best procedure to meet my needs?

  • What are your expectations for my ability to heal and make a full recovery?

  • Will this surgery make a significant overall difference?

  • Where will the surgery be performed?

  • Do you anticipate only needing local anesthesia, or should I be prepared for something else?

  • How long do you expect my procedure to take?

  • Will I need to find transportation after surgery, or will I be able to drive myself?

  • What can I do ahead of time to make my recovery period easier?

You will probably ask some of the same questions when inquiring about your child’s procedure, but here are a few others you may want to consider including:

  • How can I best communicate or describe the nature of this surgery to my child?

  • Will my child experience any pain?

  • What happens if my child has an adverse reaction to the anesthesia?

  • Will the length of recovery be longer for a child compared to an adult?

  • How do I know this is the best procedure for my child?

  • How long should I expect to keep my child home from school?

Your ear surgery should be specific to your needs, and you should feel relatively comfortable with the process before it begins. Communication plays a key role in how prepared you are before surgery. Address any concerns you have for yourself or your child, knowing that preparedness will help alleviate nerves. It may take some time after surgery to get used to your new look, but the main goal of cosmetic ear surgery is to help boost your confidence in your appearance. A successful ear surgery not only rejuvenates your entire look but your overall sense of self-worth as well.

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