Otoplasty (Ear Reshaping Surgery)
Protruding ears can be very difficult for young children and adults alike. Children, long the victims of cruel nicknames like “Dumbo” or “Mickey Mouse,” are the most likely candidates for otoplasty, but this surgery can be performed at any age after the ears have reached full size, usually around five to six years of age. Even if the ears are only mildly distorted, the condition can lead to self-consciousness and poor adaptation to school. When it comes to otoplasty, conventional wisdom is the earlier the better.
Adults may also benefit from this procedure, which improves self-esteem with relative ease. Often, adults choose this surgery in conjunction with other facial plastic surgical procedures. Not only is it possible to “pin back” ears, but ears can also be reshaped, reduced in size, or made more symmetrical.
Is otoplasty for you?
General good health and realistic expectations are prerequisites. It is also important to understand the surgery. Otoplasty will not alter hearing ability. What is important for successful otoplasty is that the ears be in proportion to the size and shape of the face and head.
When considering otoplasty, parents must be confident that they have their child’s best interests at heart. A positive attitude toward the surgery is an important factor in all facial plastic surgery, but it is especially critical when the patient is a child or adolescent.
Adult candidates for otoplasty should understand that the firmer cartilage of fully developed ears does not provide the same molding capacity as in children. A consultation with a facial plastic surgeon can help parents decide what is best for their child, not only aesthetically, but also psychologically and physically. Timing is always an important consideration. Having the procedure at a young age is highly desirable in two respects: the cartilage is extremely pliable, thereby permitting greater ease of shaping; and secondly, the child will experience psychological benefits from the cosmetic improvement.
The surgical procedure
Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head. Removal of appropriate amounts of cartilage and skin will be performed to achieve the new shape of the ears. Typically a combination of sutures are used to hold the cartilage permanently in place.
Post operative expectations
Soft dressings applied to the ears will remain for a few days. Most patients experience some mild discomfort. If you are accustomed to sleeping on your side, your sleep patterns may be disrupted for a week or so because you cannot put any pressure on the ear areas. Headbands are recommended to hold the ears in the desired position for two weeks after the surgery.
The risks are minimal. There will be a thin white scar behind the ear after healing. Because this scar is in a natural crease behind the ear, it is rarely visible. Anything unusual should be reported immediately, especially pain on one side that is significantly more than the other.