Frequently Asked Questions

What is an otoplasty?

An otoplasty is a procedure to reshape prominent ears, usually helping the ears to lay closer against the head and creating a better configuration of all the curves that make up the ears.

What are prominent ears?

"Prominent ears" is a catch all term plastic surgeons use to describe ears that can be improved with an otoplasty. From front view the ears may point widely out, which is why some refer to them as "Dumbo" ears. From the side only the edge of the ear may be visible, with what should be the side of the ear facing forward. From behind it can look as if the ears are rotated forward with too much of the back of the ear being visible.

What’s "ear pinning"?

Ear pinning is the colloquial term that is used for an otoplasty – though no pins are used in the procedure.

Why are prominent ears even worth fixing?

It is interesting how our culture has focused on the importance of the nose, mouth, and eyes in facial beauty. But the ears are every bit as important. The entire shape of the face is affected by the position of the ears on the head. Ears that are too wide draw attention to themselves and away from the face. Simply rotating the ears to lay back a little flatter against the head can make someone much more attractive. No one ever talks about being attracted to ears. But if you start to look very carefully at the shapes of people’s ears, you will notice that some have a beautiful shape, and some not much so. Indeed, at a subconscious level the shape of the ears plays a significant role in human attractiveness.

What’s the ideal age to have an otoplasty?

By age five, the ear has nearly reached its ideal size. It is also around the time that teasing may begin. If a parent has any concerns, that would be a good time to speak with their pediatrician or a plastic surgeon.

What is done during an otoplasty?

It is always desirable to have our eyes noticed, but never our ears. The goal of an otoplasty is to make the ears blend into the head and not be noticed. Ears come in an infinite variety of shapes, and in an otoplasty a surgeon has a great ability to sculpt the ears. There are two main parts of the issue that are usually the focus of an otoplasty. The first is whether the concha – the bowl shaped base of the ear – is too large. When large, it can be reduced or rotated back against the head. The other issue is whether the beautiful folds that make up the ear are all properly intact. One such fold – the antihelical fold – is often absent or weak in patients who need an otoplasty. By folding it back and holding it in place with sutures, its shape can be improved and made much more attractive.

Can adults get an otoplasty?

It is very common for an adult to get an otoplasty. Their parents may not have noticed it, perhaps no one knew surgery was an option, or perhaps the parents felt that it didn’t bother the child. Some parents think it is one of the features that make a child cute and that they will outgrow it.

Why would an adult get an otoplasty?

Adult otoplasty patients are among the most enthusiastic plastic surgery patients of all. Women will say that they have always wanted to wear their hair back but never could because of their ears. Many women mention that the tops of their ears protrude through their hair even when their hair is back. Men are even more bothered by prominent ears than women, perhaps because their shorter hair makes them harder to conceal. And there is probably a psychological component as well. Much as a strong jaw his associated with masculinity, wide ears are associated with a childlike, less mature, or less serious personality. Of course many people with prominent ears are taken seriously (President Obama, to name just one.) But some people with prominent ears may feel that beyond just affecting their physical attractiveness, their prominent ears may be inhibiting their ability to gain the confidence of and respect from others.

What anesthesia is used for otoplasty?

General anesthesia is the preferred anesthesia for children, but adults can be very comfortable with local anesthesia.

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