Otoplasty is a cosmetic ear surgery procedure that can improve ear size and shape. Having ears that are either too small, too large, or asymmetrical can draw attention away from your face. As a result, children may be teased, and adults may feel self-conscious about how they look. As board-certified Atlanta plastic surgeons, Dr. Killingsworth, Dr. Farber, and their surgical team specialize in otoplasty surgery to reshape protruding or outward-pointing ears.
When ears protrude instead of tapering back towards the head, it can significantly affect confidence and self-esteem. Adults with prominent ears may be self-conscious about their appearance and may attempt to hide their ears from public view with hats or different hairstyles. Even from the young age of three to four years, children can begin to recognize the difference in their ears from that of their peers and this feeling that they are somehow “different” can escalate as they grow older.
Children who attend school with protruding ears are often subjected to teasing and caustic remarks that can lead to emotional and psychological stress. For children and adults who have ears that are too large, uneven, or misshapen, cosmetic ear surgery may be a solution. Ear surgery, also known as otoplasty, is a procedure that reshapes the ear, placing it closer to the head. Ear surgery is unique in that it is one of the only cosmetic procedures performed more commonly on children than adults. Some people are born with ears that stick out too far. This condition is called “lop ear deformity”. In lop ear deformity, the part of the upper ear that looks like a “Y” (the antihelix) is too flat and there is excess cartilage in the bowl-like part of the lower ear (the concha). Lop ear deformity can draw unwanted attention to the ears, and many patients (children and adults alike) may wish to change the shape of their ears as a result.
Otoplasty is a highly customizable procedure that can help with a variety of complaints about ear appearance.
Sometimes the suboptimal appearance of the ears is something a patient is born with. For example, macrotia or microtia can cause the ear to be too large or too small in proportion to the rest of the head. Ears that protrude more than “normal” can lead to bullying and decreased self-esteem. Other less common conditions like “cagot ear” — where the earlobes are diminished or non-existent — can also be corrected with otoplasty.
Significant damage to the ears can occur over the course of a lifetime. For example, treatments for skin cancer on the ear can necessitate tissue removal, leaving behind a deformed ear. In addition, repeated damage to the ear can lead to “cauliflower ear,” a deformation that creates a bumpy, bulbous appearance. In these and other cases, otoplasty can be used to restore the ear’s natural appearance.
Otoplasty can improve facial balance by:
At Astra Plastic Surgery, we offer otoplasty in Atlanta to reposition the ears back into a natural position while improving the appearance of abnormally-shaped ears. Otoplasty is also referred to as “pinning the ears back.” Ear surgery is the most effective way to bring the ears back into proportion with the rest of the head.
While certainly not restricted to children, the average patient age for otoplasty is between four and fourteen years old. Ear surgery for children is recommended at the age of five or six as they near total ear development. Unlike other facial features, at this age a child’s ear has reached its adult size and is almost fully (90%) formed. Another incentive for early otoplasty is that the ear cartilage is soft and malleable during childhood, making the surgery easier to perform. When ear surgery is performed at a young age, children are usually very compliant, and it can reduce the chance of potential ridicule from their classmates. During otoplasty, the child’s ears are commonly made to appear smaller and / or less prominent before reshaping them into a normal position. To ensure a successful outcome, ear surgery must be a family decision.
Parents should be in tune with their child’s interest in the otoplasty procedure and should not pressure them until they are ready, as this can cause unnecessary anxiety and fear. Adults too can benefit from otoplasty, as there is no upper age limit for ear surgery. Besides patients seeking otoplasty for cosmetic reasons, ear reshaping can also reconstruct ears that have been injured in an accident. Additionally, earlobe repair or surgery can be performed to repair earlobes that are torn from wearing heavy earrings or accidents.*
During your consultation, Dr. Killingsworth, Dr. Farber, and their plastic surgery team will discuss options regarding anesthesia, as well as the many surgical techniques that are available to improve the appearance of your ears. The particular method recommended will depend on your procedure goals and expectations, your personal anatomy, and many other factors. Our ear surgeons will select the surgical technique that can best obtain the ideal outcome for you.*
Otoplasty is typically performed as an outpatient procedure that can take two to three hours to complete. General anesthesia is commonly used for children, while adults and young adults may receive local anesthesia with oral sedation. If you have protruding ears, your otoplasty surgeon will reshape the supporting tissue of the ears (cartilage) in order to position your ears closer to your head. This is accomplished through incisions placed behind the ears concealed in the natural skin crease. For ears that need to be reduced in size or ears that are protruding in the middle 1/3 of the ear, external incision of the front (outside surface) of the ear will be necessary.
The incisions will be placed in inconspicuous areas. During your Otoplasty in Atlanta skin and cartilage will need to be removed before the incision(s) are sutured back together.* It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery from ear surgery varies greatly among individuals. For the first several days after your surgery, you should maintain head elevation as much as possible, and any pain can be controlled with oral medication. You will be instructed to wear gauze dressing or bandages for a few days to ensure that your ears heal in their new, corrected position.
A headband to cover the ears should be worn at night to prevent the ears from bending during sleep. Straining, bending, and lifting should be avoided during the early postoperative period. Some Atlanta Otoplasty patients find that mild swelling may persist for several weeks, although bruising typically disappears within two weeks. Most patients can resume normal activities within ten days or less and children usually require one to two weeks off from school for recovery. Thousands of cosmetic ear surgeries are performed every year. Since results are long-lasting, otoplasty is typically a rewarding surgery for many patients.
After your procedure, the first few weeks will be the most difficult and important of your recovery. The overall length of your recovery may vary, but most patients typically heal enough to resume normal life after about two weeks.
Bandages will be applied following surgery to help protect the surgical area from damage, keep it clean, and provide support for the ear’s new structure as it begins to heal. It is normal for the ear to ooze a dark, thick liquid for a few days to weeks, so it is crucial to keep the ears dry. Also, patients are advised to avoid unnecessary exertion and sun exposure as much as possible.
Discomfort should be expected, but this is typically manageable with the pain medication your provider at Astra Plastic Surgery will provide. You will also be provided with prescriptions and instructions for other medications to apply to the incision sites and stitches to reduce the risk of infection and speed up the healing process. It is common for the skin under the bandages to become irritated or itchy, but it is critical that the bandages not be removed during this time.
After about a week or two, your provider will remove the bandages during a follow-up visit. They will also assess your progress and make further recommendations.
Significant improvements in the appearance of your ears should be visible as soon as the bandages are removed. While some swelling or discoloration may be present, the new size, shape, or position of the ears should be noticeable.
Keep in mind that final results will only be realized after your body has completely healed and adapted to your new ears. This can take anywhere from six months to a year in most cases.
The cost of your ear surgery may be partially covered by your medical insurance. After your consultation, we advise you as to whether your otoplasty is medically indicated. If ear surgery is only cosmetic, you are responsible for the full cost. We accept payment by cash, personal check, credit card, CareCredit®, and Alphaeon® Credit financing.
Dr. Christopher Killingsworth, Dr. Stephanie Farber and their staff of plastic surgery professionals would be happy to help you set up a personal consultation to discuss otoplasty in more detail. Contact our Atlanta office at (678) 208-6008, our Cumming, GA office at (678) 400-0302, our Canton, GA office at (678) 918-3361, or request an appointment online today.
The quick answer is, “it depends.” Insurance companies will usually cover the cost of procedures deemed “medically necessary,” meaning they are needed to restore normal function or are reconstructive. Contact your insurance provider before your consultation to find out if an otoplasty procedure for you or your loved one may be covered.
For corrective or reconstructive otoplastic surgeries, the effects will be long-lasting. The ears naturally change and shift with time, so all of the improvements may not last forever, but the significant alterations to the overall shape, size, and position of the ears will endure.
It is generally recommended that you avoid sleeping on your side during the first week or so of recovery from an otoplasty procedure. Doing so can cause discomfort and interfere with the healing process. Keeping your head elevated is also important, so sleeping with your head and neck propped up and supported — with a travel pillow, for example — is a commonly recommended technique.
The average cost for cosmetic otoplasty surgeries is around $3,700, not including common additional expenses like anesthesia and facility fees. Following your consultation, you will be provided with a detailed estimate of the total cost you can expect for your personalized procedure.
The structure of the ear is elastic and will usually shift over time. Following surgery, it is normal for the ears to move slightly as they heal and your body finds equilibrium. In most cases, this change is only very minor and imperceptible except on extremely close inspection and does not compromise the overall improved appearance.
Most results from otoplasty procedures are permanent. However, in rare cases — like a traumatic injury to the ear or incomplete healing — the results can be compromised. Usually, a follow-up procedure can correct this.
Otoplasty should only be utilized after the ears have fully formed — usually around five years of age. Therefore, younger children should typically wait until the formation of their ears is complete before pursuing otoplasty. However, there are non-surgical solutions available that may be able to correct a malformed ear while it is developing.
At Astra Plastic Surgery in Atlanta, we believe plastic surgery can achieve beautiful yet subtle results that accentuate your natural contours. Whether you opt for surgical treatments or non-invasive procedures, your cosmetic surgeon should possess a thorough understanding of the body's symmetry and proportions to ensure the best possible outcomes.*
Schedule a consultation today to learn how Astra Plastic Surgery can empower you to take control of your look.