Ear Surgery (Otoplasty)
As one of the most prominent features of the facial area, the size and shape of the ears make a big difference in overall appearance. Ears that are too large, droopy or that have been damaged or torn in some way can cause an unbalance of your facial proportions. The unsightliness may not be obvious to others, but a change in the appearance of the ears, leading to a pleasing symmetry of the face, can do wonders for confidence levels, leading to a better quality of life.
- Types of Ear Surgeries
- Before & After
- Pros & Cons
- Side Effects
- Procedure Details
- How to Select a Surgeon
- Questions to Ask
Ear surgery is performed for several different reasons, all directly related to your appearance. The varying procedures will surgically correct your ears by reshaping, repositioning or removing some of the underlying cartilage, by removing excess earlobe tissue, by inserting a small implant, or by reconstructing earlobes that have been damaged. Each of the surgical procedures is permanent and utilizes local anesthesia, local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia.
Types of Ear Surgery
Ear Pinning An ear pinning surgery, or otoplasty, focuses on correcting protruding ears and restoring symmetry by making large ears more proportional to the face. This is done by reshaping the cartilage and may include the removal of loose skin or excess cartilage, depending on the initial ear size. After the surgery is complete, your plastic surgeon will reposition projecting ears closer to the sides of your head, ensuring less prominent ears and a more balanced aesthetic overall. Ear pinning has an overall cost of approximately $3,000-$5,000.
earFold™ An earFold™ surgery corrects the problem of protruding ears through the use of a small implant surgically embedded underneath the skin of your ear. This implant improves the appearance of your ears, giving them a new and desirable shape. This minimally invasive 20-minute surgery costs between $1,000-$2,000 per implant.
Earlobe Reduction An earlobe reduction surgery works to correct large, pendulous (excessively drooping, sagging or hanging) ears. This unsightly condition can be hereditary or simply a side effect of aging. Either way, earlobe reduction surgery removes the excess earlobe tissue that you find unattractive, revealing a more pleasing geometric ear shape. This is a common surgical procedure and costs approximately $400-$1,200 per ear.
Earlobe Surgery Earlobe surgery is performed to restore a natural appearance to earlobes that have undergone some sort of tearing, stretching, trauma, piercing or gauging. Gauging refers to the process by which individuals place ear gauges into their earlobes, stretching the center of the earlobe and causing it to heal into an open, hanging circle in place of a regular earlobe, and weakening the earlobe itself. This earlobe repair takes place within a 10-15 minute timeframe and costs between $400-$900 per ear.
The upfront cost of ear surgery is anywhere from $400 per ear to $5,000 overall, and will largely depend on your procedure type. Ear surgeries must be performed by a plastic surgeon, meaning that your cost will be higher than if it were to be performed by a nurse practitioner or another medical professional. It is also important to consider the type of anesthesia that will be used. You will need local anesthesia, local with sedation or general anesthesia. The type and amount given will be significant factors, and your surgeon will provide that information during a preliminary consultation. Another cost indicator is your geographic location. You may need to consider out of area travel expenses or to compare surgeons and prices in multiple surrounding areas before making a final selection.
Before and After Overview
Your surgeon will provide you with the before and after the procedures they recommend. Be sure to adhere to those as they will be customized for your treatment plan. However, general guidelines suggest that, in terms of ear pinning and earFold™, you will need to fast before your procedure. You will also need to avoid sunbathing and taking medication containing aspirin for 2 weeks before surgery. For 4 weeks prior, avoid smoking and alcohol consumption as these could prevent you from achieving your best results. Once directed, begin taking the recommended doses of Arnica and Vitamin C, both of which will be useful in your healing.
For earlobe reduction and earlobe surgery, you should also avoid Aspirin®, Motrin®, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and some over-the-counter herbal medications for at least 2 weeks before surgery. Taking these, and other similar substances, can cause excess bleeding and bruising.
General guidelines for after surgery care include avoiding strenuous exercises and activities, remaining in an upright position and avoiding weight loss diets for 3 weeks. You will also need to avoid smoking for 4 weeks and direct sunlight for 6 weeks. Wear a loose-fitting headband for 6 weeks at night and refrain from using products with Aspirin® for a 1-week minimum.
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery offers a helpful guideline for preparing for your surgery, including some things you may want to consider discussing with your surgeon.
Earlobe Reduction, Earlobe Surgery, and earFold™ require a maximum recovery time of 2 weeks while ear pinning requires between 2-3 weeks of recovery. The recovery essentials vary slightly with each variation, but compared to other corrective cosmetic surgeries, such as a facelift, recovery is relatively minimal. It should be noted that, although it may seem alarming, it is normal to experience ear drainage after an ear pinning surgery. This will be a thick, dark substance combined with blood that should be cleaned with a peroxide solution. Sneezing or coughing with your mouth open could cause pain and harm to your ear, and is best avoided. An earFold™ surgery requires cleanliness and dryness of the area, but most activities can be resumed immediately. For those recovering from an earlobe reduction or earlobe surgery, you are permitted to resume normal exercise and activities almost immediately, but you should refrain from sleeping on your ears or placing pressure on the repaired areas until your surgeon removes your sutures (approximately 1-week post op) and gives you the all-clear.
Who is a Candidate for Ear Surgery?
Ear surgery is safe for adults, teenagers, and children; however, your child’s ears will need to have reached their full size before undergoing ear surgery. This is generally around age 5, but your surgeon will be best able to determine this information for you as you will need to make sure that their ear cartilage is stable enough to sustain surgical correction. It may also be wise to make sure they are old enough to understand the process to limit the amount of fear they may experience. Otherwise, if your child is in good health, has never been treated for chronic ear infections, and is without any type of life-threatening illness, they are likely a good candidate for ear surgery. Similarly, teenagers and adults who are in good health with no life-threatening illnesses and without medical conditions that can impair healing are good candidates.
Pros & Cons of Ear Surgery
A major “pro” of each ear surgery variation lies within its ability to improve the ear shape, and therefore the overall facial proportions, in a permanent way. It can heighten your confidence with very low risk involved. An earFold™ surgery also offers the benefits of a quicker recovery and a smaller chance of developing keloid scars, which are large, unsightly scars that could potentially form around the site of your incision. The cons of undergoing ear surgery include a lack of desired symmetry, the potential for scarring, and possible numbness. Discuss any concerns you have with your surgeon during the consultation before scheduling your surgery. They will be your most significant source of information regarding the prospective outcome related to your specific needs.
Side Effects of Ear Surgery
In general, there are no major side effects associated with ear surgery. You might experience a moderate level of pain as the ears are sensitive, but this is normal. It is also normal to have itching and numbness. If, for some reason, these side effects becoming alarming, speak with your surgeon.
Ear Surgery Procedure Details
Ear Pinning: $3,000 - $5,000 overall Also referred to as otoplasty, an ear pinning surgery is utilized for those who want to correct protruding ears (ears that bulge or extend far beyond a normal range) or for those wishing to restore balance to their face by making their ear size more proportionate to their face size. The treatment area will be anesthetized and your surgeon will make a discreet incision directly behind the ear where scarring is most likely to be minimal. Once the incision is made, your surgeon will be able to access the cartilage to reshape and enhance it to better fit your face. There may also be cartilage removal depending on the original size of the ears and the dimensions necessary for creating evenness. After reshaping, and possibly removing excess cartilage, your plastic surgeon will reposition your ears closer to the sides of your head, to ensure the greatest level of symmetry and balance.
earFold™: $1,000-$2,000 per implant An earFold™ surgery uses a small implant that is surgically placed under the skin of your ear. The purpose of the implant is to improve the appearance of your ears, making them more desirable to you and more proportional to your face shape. Before the implant is inserted, the area will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution, covered with a surgical drape and injected with local anesthesia. This drape acts as a shield to protect the area from pollutants in the air or the environment, ensuring that the area remains sterile for the duration of the surgery. After the implantation is complete, the cartilage will be placed back over the implant, creating a new, more suitable shape. This procedure sounds in-depth, but it is minimally invasive and the surgery only takes about 20-minutes from start to finish.
Earlobe Reduction: $400-$1,200 per ear An earlobe reduction surgery corrects the appearance of pendulous (excessive drooping, sagging, hanging) ears. This can be an inherited trait but is sometimes a side effect of aging as well. Earlobe reduction surgery can be done via the wedge reduction method or the peripheral margin reduction method, depending on the area that needs to be reduced. Both reductions begin with outlining the area to be abridged and injecting local anesthesia. In the wedge reduction method, the markings are made in a geometric shape before excising tissue, whereas, with a peripheral margin reduction method, the markings outline the bottom of the earlobe, depicting where to trim off the excess amount of skin and showing the new preferred length. The incisions are closed with stitches and leave minimal scarring.
Earlobe Surgery: $400-$900 per ear Earlobe surgery is a simple procedure that repairs quite a bit of damage in about 10-15 minutes. This surgery restores your ears to a natural appearance after they have endured some sort of tearing, stretching, trauma, piercing or gauging. Gauging refers to a trend in which people pierce their ears, insert a gauge and continually stretch out the earlobe by replacing each gauge with a larger sized gauged once the new hole heals. This process leaves a large hole in the earlobe. Tears in the earlobe can be partial, full or multiple tears. The extremity of the tear determines the exact process of earlobe surgery utilized, although each process uses local anesthesia. Partial tears are excised and re-sutured, however, if the tear reaches down into the lower 1/3 of the earlobe, it will need to be made into a full tear, changed into a “V” shape, and reclosed to avoid a point-shaped earlobe.
How to Select the Right Plastic Surgeon
Now that you have a working knowledge of ear surgeries and their variances, it is important to know how to go about selecting a plastic surgeon who is suited to your needs. Who you select will play a vital role in your ear surgery experience. You should select someone who is board-certified and who is fully equipped to handle your surgery. They should have prior experience in the type of ear surgery you will be receiving and should be able to provide you with previous examples of before/after photos from similar surgeries. For children, it is essential that you choose someone with extensive pediatric experience and bedside manners that make children feel comfortable. This will go a long way in your child’s surgical experience. Here is a list of websites that you might find helpful as you research surgeons in your area:
- The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
- The American Academy of Dermatology
- The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
- Pediatric specific
Questions to Ask During a Consultation
Before you go to your initial consultation, it is a good idea to begin writing down the questions you may have regarding your or your child’s ear surgery. Below is a list of questions you might find helpful as you create your list:
- Why is this the best procedure to meet my needs?
- What are your expectations for my ability to heal and make a full recovery?
- Will this surgery make a significant overall difference?
- Where will the surgery be performed?
- Do you anticipate only needing local anesthesia or should I be prepared for something else?
- How long do you expect my procedure to take?
- Will I need to find transportation after surgery or will I be able to drive myself?
- What can I do ahead of time to make my recovery period easier?
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery provides another list that you may want to incorporate.
You will probably ask some of the same questions when inquiring about your child’s procedure, but here are a few others you may want to consider including:
- How can I best communicate or describe the nature of this surgery to my child?
- Will my child experience any pain?
- What happens if my child has an adverse reaction to the anesthesia?
- Will the length of recovery be longer for a child compared to an adult?
- How do I know this is the best procedure for my child?
- How long should I expect to keep my child home from school?
Your ear surgery should be specific to your needs, and you should feel relatively comfortable with the process before it begins. Communication plays a key role in how prepared you are before surgery. Address any concerns you have for you or your child, knowing that preparedness will help alleviate nerves. It may take some time after surgery to get used to your new look, but the main goal of cosmetic ear surgery is to help boost your confidence in your appearance. A successful ear surgery not only rejuvenates your entire look but your overall sense of self-worth as well.