Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)
Ear surgery (otoplasty) is a type of facial cosmetic surgery performed on the ear to adjust the shape, position or proportion of the ear. Otoplasty is usually performed on larger ears to adjust their shape and size or set them closer to the head. This procedure can correct defects present at birth or treat injured ears. It may be beneficial to have ear surgery performed at a younger age before the patient is subject to ridicule or bullying.
Why Ear Surgery?
Patients (or their parents) consider ear surgery if:
- Ears appear overly large in proportion to the head.
- Ears stick out too far from the head.
- They are dissatisfied with previous ear surgery.
Virtually anyone can be a candidate for ear surgery as long as the ears have reached their full size (typically around age 7). Otoplasty is usually performed on both ears to ensure they are as symmetrical as possible. The surgery should not impact the patient’s ability to hear.
Ear Surgery Consultation
Every surgical procedure should begin with a consultation that discusses the goals of the surgery, medical conditions, potential risks and other factors to ensure the surgeon and patient have a mutual understanding.
During a consultation for ear surgery, patients should be prepared to discuss:
- The patient’s goals for the surgery (e.g., to reduce ear size or ear pinning that sets prominent ears closer to the head).
- Medical conditions, including drug allergies and any previous relevant treatments.
- General health, particularly any pre-existing conditions or risk factors for the procedure.
It is important for an honest discussion of expectations to occur during a consultation. A patient’s age, health and other factors can affect the results of ear surgery.
A consultation also is the ideal time to ask essential questions about the procedure, such as:
- What is expected of the patient to achieve the best results?
- What type(s) of anesthesia will be used?
- How long will recovery be?
- What are the risks and complications of ear surgery?
Ear Surgery Procedure
The ear surgery technique used by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon will vary depending on the type of correction needed. The specific technique will determine the location of any incisions and their corresponding scars. Incisions are often made on the back of the ears. When incisions are necessary on the front of the ear, the surgeon makes them within the folds of the ear to better hide them.
After making the incisions, the surgeon may remove excess skin or cartilage. He or she will sculpt or fold the cartilage into the proper position and secure it with internal, non-removable stitches. Additional stitches will be used to close the incisions.
Ear Surgery Recovery
After surgery, the patient’s ears will be bandaged for support and protection. Itching and discomfort are common, and patients should follow their surgeon’s guidelines for pain medication after the surgery.
To ensure optimal recovery, patients should:
- Keep pressure off the ears. Avoid sleeping on the side or wearing headphones.
- Minimize pressure against the incisions.
- Avoid rubbing against the incisions. Consider wearing loose-fitting or button-down shirts.
Bandages will often be removed a few days after surgery. Although the ears will still be swollen, patients should immediately notice a change in their appearance. Patients who are unsatisfied with the results should discuss the possibility of a revision surgery with their doctor.
Find an OMS near You
The oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) is an expert in face, mouth and jaw surgery and trained in facial cosmetic surgeries, such as otoplasty. Find an OMS trained in cosmetic facial procedures to learn more about ear surgery for you or your children.
While surgery may refine, rejuvenate or enhance existing features, the decision to have ear surgery or other facial cosmetic procedures should not be made lightly. Please talk with your OMS to understand expectations.