I hate the way my ears stick out from the side of my head. Can surgery help?

Otoplasty plastic surgery Dr Shahram Shahidi

When your best friend announced her engagement at your regular girl’s night out, you were so happy for her. After you and your friends sighed over her engagement ring, she quietly pulled you aside from the group.

Best friends since primary school, you knew what she was going to ask you – to be her chief bridesmaid. Before you know it, you hear yourself saying, ‘of course I’ll be your chief bridesmaid…I can’t wait!’

As you organise another round of champagne, the reality of what you’ve agreed to sinks in. You know your best friend well and she’s always dreamed of her bridesmaids wearing their hair in a soft chignon.

To anyone else in your situation, they’d think nothing of it. But here’s the thing – your ears have always stuck out from the side of your head!

In primary school you got teased relentlessly and got called names like ‘dumbo the elephant’. Since then, you’ve always worn your hair down.

The only time you do pull hair back from your face is when you’re at the gym. But even then, you wear a cap to tuck the tops of your ears into.

You know you can’t disappoint your best friend and get into a fight over a hairstyle for her wedding day.

And that’s when it occurs to you to investigate a surgical option that will pin your ears back permanently – Otoplasty surgery.

What is ear pinning surgery?

Otoplasty (also called ear pinning surgery) is a surgical procedure to change the size, shape, or position of the ears. People who consider this surgery usually have ears that sit out too far from the side of the head. This is sometimes called ‘prominent ears’.

Otoplasty can be done at any age after the ears have reached their full size. This is usually after the age of 5. After years of teasing or feeling self-conscious, many adults also choose to have this surgery.

Even though ears aren’t typically a major focal point of the face, having a long-term dissatisfaction about the appearance of ears can heighten self-consciousness and lower people’s self esteem.

Ears can become prominent because of:

  • A lack of folding along the antihelix, which results in the upper portion of the ear to strangely tilt out from the side of the head, and
  • An enlargement of the concha of the ear, which pushes the ear out from the skull.

Who gets Otoplasty surgery?

People who get Otoplasty surgery include children over the age of 5 and adults who feel that their ears protrude in a significant manner. Ear pinning surgery can successfully place the ears in a position that is in balance with your face.

The main reasons to get Otoplasty surgery include:

  • A newfound freedom in wearing your hair
  • It’s a relatively safe surgical procedure with little risk involved
  • Improved self confidence and self esteem

It’s important to note that Otoplasty surgery won’t alter your ability to hear or change the location of your ears. To optimize symmetry, Otoplasty is typically done on both ears.

You may be considering Otoplasty surgery if:

  • Your ear or ears stick out too far from your head
  • Your ears are large in proportion to your head
  • You’re dissatisfied with a previous ear surgery

 How is ear pinning surgery performed?

Only highly trained, experienced specialist Cosmetic Surgeons should perform an Otoplasty. Ear asymmetry is common and ear shape is variable.

Technically, Otoplasty surgery requires a great attention to detail by the Surgeon with some ear pinning procedures being complex.

Most procedures take between 1-2 hours with the surgery usually performed under general anaesthetic as day surgery. The type of Otoplasty surgical techniques your Cosmetic Surgeon uses depends on the specific issues associated with your ears.

To access your ear cartilage, most Otoplasty operations make an incision on the back of the ear. This cartilage is then scored to weaken it.

In some cases, pieces of cartilage are removed. It can also be stitched into a new shape. The incision is then closed with dissolving stitches.

After your Otoplasty operation, you will have a bulky dressing placed around the ear to put light pressure on it. While helping to hold the shape of the new ear, this dressing minimises the risk of bleeding occurring under the skin.

Read the key facts about Otoplasty surgery here.

What is recovery like after Otoplasty surgery?

Following Otoplasty surgery, you will experience swelling and bruising that will take a few weeks to resolve. Most patients report some throbbing pain in the ears after their surgery. This is similar to a traumatised or infected finger.

To reduce swelling and minimise pain, it is important to have your head elevated when you sleep. If you have any discomfort it can be treated with simple pain medications.

During recovery from Otoplasty surgery, it is important to avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

You will have scars after Otoplasty surgery that will usually be hidden in the crease where your scalp meets your ear. Any scarring will reduce over weeks and after a few months, most patients report they are nearly invisible.

Are there any risks or complications associated with ear pinning surgery?

Every surgical procedure has potential risks and complications that include allergies, anaesthetic problems, infection, pain, scarring and deep vein thrombosis.

Specific risks and complications of Otoplasty surgery include:

  • Changes in skin sensation: During Otoplasty, the repositioning of your ears can temporarily affect skin sensation in the area. This altered sensation can occur around the incision site.
  • Asymmetrical ears: This could occur as a result of changes during the healing process. It is important to note that surgery might not successfully correct pre-existing asymmetry.
  • Fluid accumulation in the inner ear: Leading to loss of balance and nausea.
  • Overcorrection: Otoplasty surgery can create unnatural contours that make ears appear to be pinned back.
  • Problems with stitches: The dissolvable stitches used to secure your ear’s new shape may work their way to the surface of the skin and have to be removed. This can cause inflammation of the affected skin.
  • Re-protrusion of one or both of the ears
  • Scarring: Your scars will be permanent but will be hidden within the creases of your ears or behind your ears.

Where to find the best Otoplasty Cosmetic Surgeons in Australia

Ear pinning surgery can make you feel more confident and reduce the distress you have about your ear shape, size and prominence. Before you have Otoplasty surgery it’s important to consider your options carefully.

It is also important to have realistic expectations about the outcomes of the surgery, and to be aware of all the risks and complications that can occur.

We suggest you make a shortlist and consult with a few Cosmetic Surgeons. You can find the best Otoplasty Cosmetic Surgeons in Australia here.

 

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