Children and teens with prominent ears are often teased and ridiculed by their peers. Boys grow tired of having to grow long hair to cover their ears while girls affected by the problem are reluctant to even tuck their hair behind their ears or wear a pony tail – in fear of being ridiculed.
Otoplasty gave these children more balance to their facial features, but there are many patients and parents who are unaware that overly prominent ears can be corrected by means of a simple surgical procedure.
Otoplasty, or ear pinning, is a surgical procedure for individuals whose ears are abnormally large or overly prominent. The condition ranges from very mild, to the complete absence of an ear (microtia) in severe cases. For the majority of patients with cupped, malformed, or even injured ears, dramatic improvement can be achieved through otoplasty surgery.
The procedure takes between one and two hours, depending upon the specific condition being addressed. It can be done under local anesthesia in the office setting, but for younger children or according to patient wishes, surgical anesthesia can be used. In any case, hospitalization is not required, recovery is quick, and pain control is easily achieved with mild analgesic medications.
Ear pinning can be performed at any age but is best done when patients are at least six or seven years old and can be involved and invested in the decision and surgical process. I’ve performed this operation on children as young as four, but I prefer them to be closer to six, when they are more aware of their bodies and become excited about the change to their ears.
Although I do see some adults seeking improvement to their ears, the majority of patients are children. Concerned parents, most often prompted by their children, bring them in for evaluation during their school years. As with all elective surgery, to me it’s very important for the patient to be part of the decision making process. When the patient is excited about the change to their ears, he or she is motivated and able to smoothly navigate the surgical process. As I see them back in my office following recovery with improved confidence and big smiles on their faces, I’m happy to know that I’ve contributed to that happiness in some way.
As for numbers of people affected, studies can’t isolate any race or gender for the condition, but some data, as well as empirical evidence, suggests that genetic inheritance is often involved. There also seems to be no gender predilection. Available data suggests that 53 percent of teens undergoing otoplasty procedure are males. Approximately 33 percent of all otoplasty procedures are performed on boys and girls in their teens. However, as mentioned above, I have had numerous adult cases. In fact, one patient was in his 70s when he presented for surgery. I knew the procedure had been successful when he cut his hair short enough to expose his ears for the first time in years. Otoplasty brings a lot of joy to both the patient and the doctor.
As a fellowship trained Facial Plastic Surgeon and Otolaryngologist, I see many patients interested in improving this aspect of their faces, and I find great satisfaction in assisting them in their desires.
Scott K. Thompson, M.D.