What Is Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)?


Cosmetic ear surgery, also known as otoplasty surgery or ‘ear pinning’ is a surgical procedure designed to reduce the size of large ears or pin back ears that protruding ears. The majority of patients that have this straightforward treatment are children in need of ear reshaping or attention to protruding ears. It can greatly enhance the appearance and give a renewed sense of confidence with little downtime and discomfort.

Because the cartilage in children’s ears is soft it is more pliable and can be more easily reshaped, otoplasty achieves the best results when performed on children between the ages of four (when the ears are fully formed) and 14. Having the surgery done at a young age can also avoid the associated low self-esteem and self-consciousness that can come as a result as being teased at school. Cosmetic ear surgery is also an excellent option for adults who suffer from large, protruding ears or stretched earlobes however.

If you have any of the following concerns, then you could be suitable for cosmetic ear surgery:

  • Large or protruding ears
  • Enlarged earlobes
  • ‘Cauliflower ears’
  • ‘Lop ears’ (where the ear tips fold down and jut forward)
  • Deformed or misshapen ears
  • Very small ears

If you are unhappy with the way your ears look then the best way to find out if you are a suitable candidate for cosmetic ear surgery is to book a consultation with a surgeon.

If you suffer from severe ear deformities or your ears have been damaged during an accident or because of playing certain sports then you may need reconstructive ear surgery, which is a more complex procedure than traditional otoplasty, and will require longer preparation and recovery time.

Although cosmetic ear surgery is known to be one of the safest plastic surgery procedures, there is always some risk involved in the whenever you have surgery. Infection, blood clots, over correction, and an extremely rare risk of altered hearing are all potential complications associated with ear surgery. If you are having the procedure done under general anesthetic this carries an additional risk.

Infection is one of the most common complications of any surgery. Usually an infection can be treated with antibiotics but in rare cases the infection may require surgical drainage and could result in the formation of scar tissue.

Blood clots are very rare but can be removed with a needle or may simply dissolve naturally. You should contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any prolonged swelling and bleeding to ensure the ear is healing properly.

Over correction is another possible risk following cosmetic ear surgery. The chance of this occurring can be reduced by ensuring you choose a surgeon who is skilled in performing ear surgery. Over correction complications include the surgeon placing the ears too close to the head, contour distortions, inadequate correction, and asymmetric correction.

Hearing loss is extremely rare and a highly skilled ear surgeon is able to evaluate the possibility of such a risk and take the necessary steps to avoid any hearing damage.

Before you decide whether or not to go ahead with cosmetic ear surgery you will need to book a consultation with a surgeon to discuss your options. The surgeon will examine your ears and discuss the type of ear surgery that is best suited to you. The consultation will also be an opportunity for you to talk about your goals and expectations of the procedure.

The surgeon will take a medical history and go through the possible risks and complications associated with the surgery to ensure you fully understand what the procedure involves before making a decision whether or not to go ahead.

Don’t be afraid to ask any questions and bring up any concerns you have. It is also a good idea to ask the surgeon to show you before and after pictures of other patients they have treated so you can get an idea of the previous work they have done.

Once you have decided that you definitely want to go ahead you will be given a consent form to sign. Make sure you read this and all the associated material you are given carefully.

The surgeon will usually take photographs of your ears before you have surgery in order to make a comparison afterwards.

There are different types of surgery for ear correction, so the time your surgery will take depends on which type you are having. Typically, the procedure will take between one and three hours and will be done under local anesthetic or sedation although it is sometimes done under general anesthetic, particularly when the surgery is being done on children.

The technique your surgeon uses will depend on the type of ear surgery you are having but they usually begin by making a small incision behind the ear to reveal the cartilage. They will then remove any excess skin and cartilage before pinning the ear back with stitches. The original incision will then be closed using dissolvable stitches and bandages will be wrapped around the head to cover the ears.

As with any type of surgery, recovery from cosmetic ear surgery can take a few weeks however it is one of the easiest cosmetic surgery procedures to recover from.

You will usually be able to resume normal activities after a few days but full recovery can take up to six weeks. Children generally require a week of rest before going back to school.

Your ears will be swollen after surgery but this will go down after a few days. Your ears may also be bruised and you may get some throbbing, itching or temporary numbness in the treated area.

Once the bandages are removed, after a week or so, the results of the surgery will be immediately visible. It is very important however that you don’t remove the bandages before your surgeon tells you to. You may be required to wear a headband after your bandages are removed to ensure they heal properly and keep the desired shape and position, it is important that you wear this as instructed by your surgeon, especially at night when the ears are most at risk.

You should refrain for any rigorous activity until you are fully recovered and avoid using hair dryers or other objects that give out extreme heat or cold, as they may cause damage to numb ears.