Prominent ears aren’t usually a medical problem, but if your child is sensitive to teasing, large ears can be a cosmetic issue that causes stress and anxiety. The surgical procedure to bring ears into proportion with the head is called otoplasty, and it may also be used for ears that protrude or that are misshapen. It’s always a difficult decision whether to ride it out or proceed with surgery, and Lakeshore Ear, Nose & Throat Center locations are your partners in assessing each case, including an evaluation of your child that considers both the surgical and psychological impact of otoplasty.
The right age for cosmetic ear surgery
Typically, we wait until a child is about 6 years old before we perform otoplasty. By this age, the ears have matured to about 90% of their adult size, and ear cartilage is substantial enough to be reshaped. Cosmetic ear surgery can be performed at any age, including adulthood, but a child of early school age can have the issue corrected before taunting from their peers becomes chronic.
There are some ear issues present at birth that can be treated easily with nonsurgical techniques, so never hesitate to discuss this with your primary care physician or pediatrician. To be effective, other treatments must usually be started very soon after birth.
Considerations for otoplasty
By the age of 6, many children can understand the purpose of the surgery and they’re often mature enough to be part of the decision making process. While they may, of course, be frightened about the new and unknown events surrounding the otoplasty, they may already be aware of teasing, and therefore excited about the idea of “fixing” the issue.
If anxiety about surgery is substantial, there’s no medical reason why the procedure can’t wait for months or even years, until they’re more in favor of the procedure. There’s no “right answer” to the otoplasty decision.
The otoplasty procedure
For many children, the more they understand the procedure, the easier it is for them to support the surgery decision, so being able to answer their questions may be the best approach you can offer in the time leading up to the otoplasty.
While specific techniques and incisions depend on your child’s ears, their doctor will make incisions either behind the ear or within the folds of ear cartilage, so any scar that results will be hard to see. Some cartilage may be removed, folded, or reshaped to reduce the size of their ears or to bring the ears closer to the head.
Usually, both ears are treated in the same procedure, so that they “match” when healing is done. There may be stitches both inside and outside the ears when the procedure is done.
After ear pinning surgery
You and your child will get specific instructions for post-surgery care, though you can prepare your child for some of the common recovery procedures. Your child will have their ears bandaged for a few days after surgery to promote healing in the new position. After the bandages are removed, they’ll wear a headband to protect their “new” ears.
It’s normal for ears to look red and swollen in the early days after surgery. This is part of the healing process. Things may hurt a bit, and you’ll be advised on suitable pain medication. If pain gets worse, instruct your child to tell you and contact us as soon as possible.
Bathing may be modified after surgery, and resuming physical education classes or sports may need to wait. Some stitches dissolve with time, while others must be removed by your Lakeshore ENT caregiver. Stitch removal doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s more likely to tickle.
Otoplasty is typically a simple, straightforward procedure, and with proper preparation, your child’s worry can be managed. Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have additional questions or concerns.