If you’re unsatisfied with how your ear looks or the size of the ears, you can go to a plastic surgeon for cosmetic ear surgery. Otoplasty (cosmetic ear surgery) is a surgery where our certified surgeons get the chance to change the size, shape, or position of the ears.
When you’re unhappy with how far your ears stick out of your face, you might choose to have otoplasty. Also, if your ears are misshapen due to congenital disabilities or suffering from injury, your cosmetic surgeon might find otoplasty helpful to fix them.
Otoplasty has age restrictions; anyone after age five and through adulthood can have otoplasty after their ears have reached their full size. However, there’re some exceptions where surgeons find it urgent to perform otoplasty at the age of three.
If your child is born with ear-shape problems or prominent ears, your surgeon will recommend splinting that may be a successful fix if done immediately after birth.
Why It’s Done
Otoplasty is a great cosmetic surgical solution if:
- Your ears are big in proportion to your head.
- You’re dissatisfied with a previous otoplasty
- Your ears or ear stick out far from your head
Typically, your surgeon will do otoplasty on both ears to optimize symmetry. As soon as your ears have reached their full size after age five, you can choose to have otoplasty.
It’s important to note that otoplasty won’t change your ears’ location or interfere with hearing ability.
How to Prepare for Otoplasty
A Consultation For Otoplasty
Your surgeon will schedule a presurgery consultation where you’ll talk about otoplasty. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon must determine if you’re a good candidate for otoplasty; so he/she will:
- Discuss your expectations. It’s a chance to talk openly about your reasons for otoplasty and your goals regarding your ears’ appearance after surgery. Then, your surgeon will explain the benefits, risks (like possible overcorrection) and set realistic expectations.
- Review your medical history. Your surgeon will ask you a series of questions about past and current medical conditions, specifically any ear infections. Also, if you’re taking any medications, or you’ve taken recently, or had any surgeries, you must inform your surgeon.
- Do a physical exam. All plastic surgeons will examine your ears by assessing their placement, shape, size, and symmetry to determine your treatment options. Also, they might take pictures of your ears before the otoplasty for your medical record.
After confirming that you’re a good candidate for otoplasty, your surgeon will recommend taking some steps to prepare yourself for surgery.
Food and medications
Before your surgery for at least a week, your surgeon will ask you to avoid medications that can increase bleeding like aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and certain herbal supplements.
If you’re a smoker, your surgeon will ask you to stop smoking since it decreases blood flow in your skin and slows the recovery process. So, before and after otoplasty, you should stop smoking until you recover.
Finally, you must make plans for a close friend or family member to drive you home after your otoplasty and stay for the first night of your recovery with you.
What You Can Expect on the Ear Surgery
After your first consultation, your surgeon will determine whether your otoplasty will be done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility.
Sometimes, your surgeon will do otoplasty under local sedation and local anesthesia to numbs certain parts of your body. In other cases, otoplasty is done with general anesthesia given before your surgery to render you unconscious.
Otoplasty techniques differ depending on the type of correction needed. Your plastic surgeon will choose a specific technique depending on the incisions’ location and the resulting scars.
Your surgeon will make incisions either:
- Within your ears’ inner creases
- On the backs of your ears
Then, your surgeon might remove excess skin and cartilage after making incisions. Afterward, he or she will fold the ear’s cartilage into the right location and use internal stitches to secure it. Finally, your surgeon will close the incisions using additional stitches.
Typically, an otoplasty (cosmetic ear surgery) takes about two hours.
Your ears will be covered in bandages after otoplasty for support and protection.
Most patients, after an otoplasty, feel some itching and discomfort. So, your surgeon will prescribe pain killers to relieve any discomfort. Contact your doctor immediately if your discomfort increases after taking pain medication.
You shouldn’t sleep on your side to keep pressure off your ears. Also, don’t put excessive force or rub on the incisions. Your surgeon will recommend wearing shirts with loose-fitting collars or button-down shirts.
A couple of days after otoplasty, your surgeon will remove your bandages. It’s normal if your ears are still red and swollen. Then, depending on your procedure, your surgeon will recommend wearing a loose headband at night that covers your ears for two to six weeks. The headband will help prevent you from pushing your ears forward in bed when rolling over.
You can discuss with your surgeon if you’ll have dissolvable stitches or you’ll need to come back for removal. Usually, we use stitches that dissolve on their own. However, if you receive the undissolvable stitches, your surgeon will schedule an appointment for you to have them removed.
Feel free to ask your doctor when you ask safely resume daily activities, such as physical activity and bathing.
After your surgeon has removed your bandages, you’ll see an immediate change in the appearance of your ears. Luckily, otoplasty surgery results are permanent.
However, if you’re displeased with your results, you can check with your surgeon if it’s possible to get a revision surgery.
Like any other surgery, otoplasty has a few risks, including:
- Asymmetry in ear placement. If changes occur during the healing process, you might experience asymmetry in the ear placement. Also, it can happen when the surgery didn’t successfully correct a pre-existing asymmetry.
- Scarring. Although otoplasty scars are permanent, your surgeon hides them within the creases of your ears or behind your ears.
- Problems with stitches. Sometimes, the stitches that secure the ear’s new shape might work their way to the skin’s surface and require removal. In this case, the patient might experience inflammation of the affected skin. Consequently, you might need additional surgery.
- Changes in skin sensation. During otoplasty, the skin sensation may temporarily be affected after the repositioning of your ears. Rarely do patients experience permanent changes in skin sensation.
- Ears can appear to be pinned back when otoplasty creates unnatural contours.
Like any other major cosmetic surgery type, otoplasty has a risk of infection, bleeding, and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Also, rarely do patients have an allergic reaction during or after the procedure to the surgical tape or other materials.
Who is the best candidate for ear cosmetic surgery?
Good candidates for otoplasty include:
- physically healthy individuals,
- patients with realistic expectations,
- and those who wish to improve the appearance of the protruding ears.
Typically, otoplasty is often performed on children who are between the ages of five and fourteen. Also, in some cases, adults need to perform an otoplasty.
Are there any age restrictions for who can undergo surgery?
It’s best to perform the otoplasty procedure on children at age five for two good reasons:
- Children’s ears have developed by the age of five.
- Children enter grade school at five years old and maybe teased or picked on.
So, it’s always best to bring your child at the age of five to have an otoplasty before entering grade school to avoid such a situation.
Also, our experienced surgeons will be glad to perform otoplasty on healthy adults that have protruding ears.
What happens during a consultation for otoplasty?
Your surgeon will examine and evaluate your ears and overall medical condition to confirm if otoplasty is good for you. Then, your surgical team will show you before and after pictures while explaining the surgical procedure from start to finish.
You’ll get a good understanding of what surgical technique your surgeon will use, where you will perform the surgery, what type of anesthesia, and a step-by-step guide of the recovery period. Then, you will meet with your patient care coordinator to understand your scheduling details and the cost.
What type of anesthesia will I receive for the otoplasty?
For children, surgeons use general anesthesia for the otoplasty procedure administered by an experienced anesthesiologist (MD).
For adults, surgeons tend to use local anesthesia and sedation when performing an otoplasty.
How is otoplasty performed?
Usually, an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon, a board-certified plastic surgeon, or a board-certified facial plastic surgeon performs otoplasty. In adults, otoplasty is always performed as an outpatient surgery under regional or local anesthesia. However, in children under eight years old, the surgeon will administer general anesthesia to keep them still during surgery.
All otoplasty incisions aren’t visible scars after the operation since they are placed behind the ear. The ears will be rotated backward if they are protruding. If patients are missing some of the natural ear folds, your surgeon can create them by taking tissues from other parts of the body or ear. If the patient has ears that are thickened from injury, they can be sculpted and thinned. At the end of the otoplasty, you’ll have a pressure dressing placed over your ear(s) to keep it in place as it recovers.
What is earlobe surgery?
It is a surgery in which the surgeon repairs a stretched or torn earlobe. Sometimes, an earlobe gets torn accidentally due to a piercing that was yanked. In other cases, the earlobe may intentionally stretch as a form of body modification. So, your surgeon can suture the opening closed and allow you to wear earrings again.
Where will you place the otoplasty incisions?
For an otoplasty procedure, your surgeon usually places the incision in the natural fold behind the ear where the ear meets the head.
When will I notice the results of otoplasty?
Your surgeon will strictly forbid you from peeking at your ear until he or she removes the pressure dressing! If you decide to remove the pressure dressing, it could increase the possibility of ear infection or change the final results. After the dressings’ removal, you will notice an immediate difference in your ears, even if you have some residual swelling remaining.
Will my ears be smaller after ear cosmetic surgery?
The actual size of the ear will remain the same. However, your ears will look less protuberant and may look smaller.
Are there scars after the procedure?
After healing and recovery, you’ll not notice the incision made for otoplasty.
Is it a painful surgery?
Like most cosmetic surgeries, you’ll experience some mild discomfort on the first night. Your surgeon will prescribe you mild pain medication to alleviate any pain you might experience.
What is the recovery like after otoplasty?
Our patients reported that they had a mild recovery for otoplasty. The surgery is ambulatory. So, your surgeon will allow you to return home the same day of the otoplasty.
Your surgical team will put a bandage over your ears after the conclusion of the operation. Then, you will be scheduled to return to the office on the first post-operative day. Your surgeon will remove the bandage and place a small elastic bandage instead.
For five days, your surgeon will ask to keep the elastic bandage on after surgery. You can only remove it to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. It’s best to have it on for the majority of the time. After those five days, you’ll come back to the office, and that’s when your surgeon will ask you to wear the bandage only during sleep for the coming week.
When will I be able to return to school or work after cosmetic ear surgery?
Generally, patients can return to work or school about one week after the otoplasty surgery.
How soon after otoplasty can I resume exercise?
If you exercise regularly, your surgeon will recommend resuming exercise three weeks after having your otoplasty.
When will my surgeon remove the stitches after otoplasty surgery?
All surgeons usually use absorbable stitches for otoplasty that dissolve on their own.
Are there any complications or risks associated with otoplasty?
Fortunately, otoplasty has minimal risks. However, it might include some risks like the following: the possibility of asymmetry, scarring, and infection.
After otoplasty surgery, will my hearing worsen?
Otoplasty surgery doesn’t affect your hearing since your surgeon operates only on the outer ear.
Do younger patients have softer, more malleable ear cartilage than adults?
Yes. It’s a known fact that as we grow, our ear cartilages become less pliable and more fibrous.
How long is recovery after otoplasty surgery?
For one week after surgery, you’ll be wearing a dressing around your ears and head. You will experience surgical bruising and swelling. You must protect your ears from bending or other trauma. Finally, our experienced team recommends wearing a headband at bedtime for 2-3 weeks after surgery.
Is ear cosmetic surgery safe?
Absolutely. All certified and professional surgical surgeons have had amazing results over the years with otoplasty. Generally, otoplasty surgery is considered to be very safe. Our surgical team uses anesthesia and preventative antibiotics to minimize any health complications.
I swim frequently? How will cosmetic ear surgery affect this?
Before swimming, you must consult with your surgeon to see if you have completely healed skin. During the first 6-8 weeks after otoplasty, you should wear a protective swim cap. Also, you best avoid diving or swimming in crowded pools s to minimize the risk of trauma.
Will I be more prone to ear infections after otoplasty surgery?
Will insurance cover ear cosmetic surgery?
Usually not. When there is no medical need for otoplasty surgery, your insurance won’t cover it.