Otoplasty, also known as “ear pinning” or ear reshaping surgery, is performed to improve the appearance of the ears. It is typically done on people with protruding, folded over (“lop” ears), or otherwise aesthetically deformed ears. Many parents are concerned about their child being bullied for problems such as these, and this concern is not unfounded. Often, children with ear deformities are teased and tormented to the point where they lose self-esteem and confidence. With most plastic surgery, it’s important to wait until the child has grown up enough to not risk additional growth, which could compromise the results of the procedure. So what is the ideal age for an otoplasty?
Ears Mature Early
Unlike the nose, which does not finish maturing until around ages 15-17, the ears develop very quickly. In general most ear growth is completed by the age of 4-5, before the age when most children start school.
The Best Time for Surgery
Most surgeons agree that the best time for a person to undergo otoplasty is as soon as the ears have finished maturing–before kindergarten, if possible. This is the common consensus for a few reasons. First ear cartilage is at its most malleable in young children, making it easier for the surgeon to reshape the ears. The second, more compelling reason for otoplasty for children is to avoid bullying if possible. Children with protruding ears usually have a rough time in school, and are often targets for cruel nicknames and other bullying.
Recovery from otoplasty is fairly straightforward, but can be challenging for children and their guardians. Immediately after surgery, the ears are bandaged using a soft, headband-like bandage. In the beginning, patients must sleep with the head elevated and not on their side, as this could crush and damage the ears. After a few days, a lighter bandage is placed, and after about a week, patients can begin to return to normal activities. Swelling will subside gradually over the first few months following surgery.
Otoplasty Later in Life
While it is often a good idea to seek otoplasty for young children and teenagers, this doesn’t mean that this is the only time otoplasty can be performed. Many people seek the surgery during young adulthood, having suffered embarrassment for years due to protruding or deformed ears. While the ear cartilage is not as soft and pliable as it is in small children, it is still quite possible to get a good outcome from the surgery. One advantage of otoplasty later in life is the possibility that local anesthesia can be used instead of general anesthesia.
Consult With an Expert
As with any plastic surgery, choosing the right surgeon is one of the most important steps you can take to help ensure a good outcome. Otoplasty is a tough step for parents to take, and finding a surgeon you and your child feel comfortable with is crucial to your peace of mind. If you are pursuing otoplasty as an adult, it is still important to select your surgeon very carefully.
When you’re ready to take the next step, it’s time to start consulting with facial plastic surgery experts, such as Dr. Edward Buckingham of Buckingham Center in Austin, TX. Dr. Buckingham offers the best in facial surgery to help patients get the results they’re looking for. Call Buckingham Center today at (512) 401-2500 to schedule your consultation.