Man or woman, adult or child, sometimes there’s a need for surgery that will correct the contour or the position of the ears. An ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a plastic surgery procedure that Dr. Steinbacher performs to repair or reconstruct prominent, badly-formed, or damaged ears.
Ear surgery is also referred to as ear pinning. We know it as otoplasty. The term ear surgery can describe a variety of techniques that are intended for ear reshaping. Ear surgery is an elective, cosmetic procedure that improves the proportions between the face and its frame.
Anyone who doesn’t like the way their ears look is a good candidate for these surgeries with Dr. Steinbacher. The reasons can be varied. A child’s ears may protrude, and this leads to teasing at school and issues with self-confidence. Adults who wish their parents had scheduled this surgery when they were children can still have it for those same reasons. A torn or seriously stretched earlobe is in obvious need of Dr. Steinbacher’s surgical expertise. These often result from a woman catching a large hoop earring on something or from the wearing of large gauges that, when removed, leave stretched skin that cannot tighten back down. Finally, congenital development issues can require surgery to address problems such as lop ear.
What’s the value of shielding a young child from teasing and taunting? This surgery can head that off in a child with protruding ears. And the surgery is not difficult. Children have an easy recovery. You may not give your ears a second thought, but a child with protruding or misshapen ears will attract unwanted attention. This surgery allows the child to avoid that.
If you’re an adult but your parents opted not to have this surgery for you, the same benefits are true. Women can stop hiding their ears behind their hair. Men can stop stuffing them under a baseball cap.
Of course, if you’re coming to Dr. Steinbacher to repair a torn earlobe or an earlobe that has become permanently stretched due to large gauges, the benefits are obvious. These issues won’t heal or correct themselves without surgery.
Some ear surgeries correct protrusion, some techniques decrease the size of the ear or of the earlobe. Ear surgery is often performed to pull protruding ears inward toward the head. Additional conditions that may be addressed with a specific technique include:
A person may undergo otoplasty at nearly any age. This surgery is often recommended for children because the ears are nearly fully-developed by age 5. At this time, however, cartilage is slightly softer and more moldable to the desired shape. Parents appreciate the availability of ear surgery for young children, and doctors often recommend that the ears be corrected before a child starts school. This can significantly decrease the chances of being teased. Correcting ear shape early in life also supports optimal self-esteem during highly developmental years.
While otoplasty is ideal for younger children, teens and adults can also obtain outstanding results from this procedure. Dr. Steinbacher has treated patients of all ages. His training and experience achieve optimal outcomes regardless of age.
Ear surgery is often done because the ears protrude or “stick out” further from the head than desired. Typically present at birth, the surgery is performed on children, as well as adults when correcting the ear shape may help the patient to be more comfortable with his or her appearance. Sometimes, surgery is also performed because of an abnormal shape, even though the ear does not really “stick out”.
Ears that stand out 2 centimeters or more from the side of the head are described as “protruding.” The prominence of the ears has to do with the antihelical fold and the central part of the ear. The center of the external ear is the concha. This is the bowl-like depression at the opening of the ear canal. The rim of cartilage just outside of the concha is called the antihelix. Just past the antihelix is a fold that ends in a slight curve at the outer edge of the ear. Two things can affect protrusion. One is that the concha is very deep. This causes the back of the ear to push away from the head. The other reason that protrusion may occur is that the antihelical fold does not fully develop.
Protruding ears are not a functional problem but they can significantly degrade a person’s sense of confidence. For this reason, ear pinning otoplasty is a highly valued procedure.
These are satisfying procedures. While children may not realize today how much their ears protrude, and how this surgery will pre-empt future teasing, they will thank you for calling Dr. Steinbacher when they hit middle school.
Otoplasty can bring the ears closer to the head, so they no longer are a noticeable feature of the face. It can correct misshapen ears, whether from congenital conditions or from the high school wrestling team. We don’t notice our ears…until we notice them. This surgery makes the ears unnoticeable.
There are the same risks as with any surgery: bleeding, infection, poor incision healing, and the like. Otherwise, this is a very low-risk procedure. The satisfaction for the child (or adult) not having his or her ears protrude far outweighs any possible risks involved. Obviously the same is true with earlobe repairs.
Otoplasty is performed under general anesthesia in an outpatient surgery center. General anesthesia places the patient into a deep, controlled sleep state. Throughout the procedure, the anesthesiologist monitors important vital signs.
Ear surgery is typically performed through an incision made along the crease behind the ear. Through this incision, the surgeon accesses relevant cartilage to achieve the desired improvements. For protruding ears, improvement is achieved with specific suturing and scoring techniques that bring the ears closer to the side of the head. In some cases, one or more parts of the ear are built up with cartilage. The particular technique that is appropriate for you or your child will be fully explained during your consultation.
You may have heard that ear surgery makes for quite a painful recovery. This isn’t the case. It is true that it is tolerated more easily by children, but even adults usually only need any narcotic type of pain medication for the first night after surgery. From there, most patients can transition to anti-inflammatory pain medication.
It is helpful to make sure you remain on your back when sleeping. It can be a painful shock if you roll onto your side and onto your repaired ear. You can make sure this doesn’t happen by strategically placing pillows on your sides.
As with any pain, different patients have different tolerances.
Dr. Steinbacher performs this procedure on patients of all age ranges. For some children, the procedure is best performed at ages five to seven. In others, the procedure is more appropriate at an older age. Patients well into their sixties have requested the procedure, and many young adults choose to correct ear problems in their twenties. In cases where major reconstruction is needed, the cartilage in the ear is collected and reformed into the normal shape of the ear and is then grafted into place. The ear is reshaped gradually over a number of follow-up procedures until the desired shape is achieved.
Our plastic surgery practice in New Haven also repairs torn earlobes. An earlobe can be torn due to trauma, snagging a piercing, or constant wearing of heavy earrings. This procedure is quick and simple, taking only around 30 minutes to complete under local anesthesia. Patients can return to their regular activities immediately after the procedure.
Recovering from otoplasty is easier than most people imagine. Many patients feel much like their usual self within a few hours after the anesthesia wears off. The most prominent side effects during recovery are aching or throbbing in the ears. Comfort is managed with prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Immediately after ear surgery, a dressing is applied around the head. This is intended to hold the ears in place and prevent accidental bumping. This dressing also helps manage swelling and it hides any bruising that may result from surgery. Within a few days, much of the swelling that has occurred disappears. Within a week to 10 days, patients are ready to return to school, work, and most normal activities.
A post-operative follow-up takes place approximately one week after otoplasty. If non-dissolvable stitches were placed, they may be removed at this time. The dressing that is removed will be replaced with an athletic-type headband. Patients must wear this headband at all times for 3 weeks. Until 6 weeks post-op, patients need to wear the headband while sleeping.
The changes made by Dr. Steinbacher with ear surgery are permanent. Our ears are finished growing by the age of four, so anything done to them after that will not be distorted by growth. If he is bringing the ears closer to the head, they will never again project outward. If he repairs a torn earlobe, unless you catch a hoop earring again, the lobe won’t change.
To learn more about our Otoplasty procedures to find out if you are a candidate, please call us at (203) 453-6635 to schedule a consultation. Our practice is proud to serve Guilford, CT and the surrounding areas.
Dr. Derek Steinbacher has devoted his life to aesthetic and life-changing surgery. He is an artistic and meticulous surgeon who draws patients from around the world due to his perspective, unmatched skill, and exceptional results. He is able to uniquely address the face (facelift + rejuvenation), jawline (orthognathic; chin; contouring; implants), nasal (rhinoplasty), eyelids, profile, neck, breast, and body with one-of-a-kind results.
He is a multiple Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Plastic, Cosmetic, and Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgeon. He is Fellow of the most prestigious surgical organizations, including the Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery, Societies of Craniofacial and Maxillofacial Surgery, the Aesthetic Society, and the Rhinoplasty Society. He has served as Full-Professor of Plastic Surgery at Yale, including Director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Program, and Chief of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Dr. Steinbacher has unparalleled training at premier institutions, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. His perspective brings together the best aspects of many distinct – but related fields – and it is this intersection of scope and expertise, in addition to an artistic eye, which enables excellent comprehensive results.
Dr. Steinbacher's approach: technical acumen, meticulousness, and penchant for combining art and science, together with his eye for balance, beauty, and harmony, helps achieve outcomes that greatly improve a person's confidence, health, and overall quality of life. Patients can trust that they are always in good hands!