Probably no other physical characteristic cries out for facial plastic surgery more than protruding ears. Children, long the victims of cruel nicknames like “Dumbo” or “Mickey Mouse,” are the most likely candidates for a ear correction, 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 (Shaping of the ear), conventional wisdom is the earlier the better. Adults may also benefit from this procedure, which improves self-esteem with relative ease. Often, adults choose ear surgery in conjunction with other facial plastic surgical procedures.
Otoplasty can improve the shape and positioning of your ears. It also can reduce the size of your ears if they are large in proportion to your other features. If your ears protrude more than normal, surgery can reposition them closer to your head.
The operation can be performed under a local anaesthetic. However, some patients are given their anaesthetic via an intravenous drip. Sometimes a full general anaesthetic may be used and this is particularly common when children are having the surgery.
Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head. The surgeon will then remove the necessary amounts of cartilage and skin required to achieve the right effect. In some cases, the surgeon will trim the cartilage, shaping it into a more desirable form and then pin the cartilage back with permanent sutures to secure the cartilage.
In other instances, the surgeon will not remove any cartilage at all, using stitches to hold the cartilage permanently in place. After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, the surgeon will apply sutures to anchor the ear until healing occurs to hold the ear in the desired position.
There will be a thin white scar afterwards which is rarely noticeable as it is hidden in the ear crease. Occasionally, however, excess scar tissue can form and this can appear quite lumpy. Ears will be sore and tender immediately following an otoplasty or cosmetic ear surgery operation, with some mild bruising and swelling. Odd sensations of “tightness”, or “pulling”, of the ears may be noticed during healing, but these usually disappear after a week or so.
Other rarer risks or side effects include bleeding underneath the skin, a reaction to the anaesthetic, infection and sometimes skin numbness that can occasionally be permanent. There is also the possibility of slightly lop-sided ears which may require another operation to put it right.
Otoplasty can improve the shape and positioning of your ears. It also can reduce the size of your ears if they are large in proportion to your other features. If your ears protrude more than normal, surgery can reposition them closer to your head. Ear surgery often is recommended for children as they near total ear development at age five or six.
Correction of the ears prior to the child entering school helps eliminate potential psychological trauma from the teasing of classmates. Adults may also have their ears reshaped. As long as you are in good health, there is no upper age limit for this surgery.