Have you ever been called “Dumbo”? Having to undergo bullying for overly prominent ears is embarrassing. This is a common occurrence in children and sometimes adults. Prominent ears that stick out are an often a reason why one would entertain the idea of Ear Surgery more technically referred to as an Otoplasty. This is usually done to set prominent ears back closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears. Most commonly, the procedure is performed on children between the ages of 4 and 14. Ears are almost fully grown by age 4, and the earlier the surgery, the less teasing and ridicule the child will have to endure. Ear surgery on adults is not uncommon and can easily be performed under local anesthesia.
The surgery is performed on an outpatient basis allowing you to return to the comfort of your own home. It generally takes around two hours. There are various techniques to accomplish the goals of the Otoplasty. With one of the more common techniques, the surgeon makes an incision in the back of the ear to expose the ear cartilage. Then the cartilage of the ear is sculpted to allow it to bend back toward the head. Stitches are used to maintain the new shape. Sometimes cartilage is removed from the ear to help create a more natural-looking contour.
Another technique involves making small incisions in the front of the ear. Permanent stitches are placed to fold the cartilage back on itself to reshape the ear bringing the ear closer to the head without removing cartilage.
Ear surgery leaves a faint scar that will fade with time. Sometimes surgery is performed on only one protruding ear to achieve a better balance.
After the Otoplasty surgery is completed the head will be wrapped in a bulky bandage to promote the best molding and healing. The ears may throb or ache a little for a few days, but this can be relieved by oral medication. Within a day or two the bandage will be removed and replaced with a headband. At this point showering and shampooing of the hair is permitted. All the skin stitches will dissolve and do not require removal.
Most adults can return to work in a week. Children can return to school in one to two weeks as long as they are careful about their activities.
Besides protruding ears, there are a variety of other ear problems that can be helped with surgery. These include: “lop ear,” when the top of the ear folds down and forward; “cupped ear,” which is usually a very small ear; and, “shell ear,” when the curve in the outer rim, as will as the natural folds and creases, are missing. Earlobes may be too large or stretched requiring adjustment. Sometimes a new ear may need to be built in someone born without an ear or lost through injury.
The trend towards large heavier earrings has increased the risk of the earlobes splitting. In my practice I am seeing this on a regular basis. This problem is fairly straightforward and can be corrected quickly in my office.
Most patients, young and old alike, are thrilled with the results of ear surgery. However, keep in mind, the goal is improvement, not perfection. Don’t expect both ears to match perfectly; perfect symmetry is both unlikely and unnatural in ears.