Prominent ears can affect a person’s self-image. Even adults with protruding ears may suffer from severe embarrassment, in some cases to such an extent that it affects their everyday lives – they may not ever wear helmets or other headgear and might find their focus on other things distracted by concern about their appearance.
Probably no other physical characteristic cries out for facial cosmetic surgery more than protruding ears. Children, long the victims of cruel nicknames like “Dumbo” or “Mickey Mouse,” are the most likely candidates for otoplasty, but this surgery can be performed at any age after the ears have reached full size, usually around five to six years of age. Even if the ears are only mildly distorted, the condition can lead to self-consciousness and poor adaptation to school. It is often desirable in children to consider this surgery before they start Kindergarten or first grade.
Specifically ear surgery can treat:
- Overly large ears – a rare condition called macrotia
- Protruding ears occurring on one or both sides in varying degrees – not associated with hearing loss
- Adult dissatisfaction with previous ear surgery
Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head. The surgeon will then remove the necessary amounts of cartilage and skin required to achieve the right effect. In some cases, the surgeon will trim the cartilage, shaping it into a more desirable form and then pin the cartilage back with permanent sutures to secure the cartilage.
In other instances, the surgeon will not remove any cartilage at all, using stitches to hold the cartilage permanently in place. After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, the surgeon will apply sutures to anchor the ear until healing occurs to hold the ear in the desired position.
A change in shape will not affect hearing. Although the ears’ folds and convolutions do serve to concentrate and localize sound waves, routine surgery to pin back or reshape ears will not produce a noticeable change in hearing.