Protruding or prominent ears are a common congenital anomaly but one that can easily be corrected with otoplasty, a procedure that reshapes and repositions the ears in order to achieve a more symmetrical appearance.
Children with protruding ears will often undergo a lot of psychological trauma from being teased at school, which is why it helps to treat this abnormality at a younger age. Adults with protruding ears can also develop a low self-esteem at work or in social situations due to this common irregularity.
Where there was once only one way to correct protruding ears, today there are both surgical and non-surgical options available, both of which utilise very different techniques.
In 1990, it was proven that ear correction could be completed without having to cut into the ear cartilage or remove skin from the back of the ear. The main objective of modern otoplasty is to keep the procedure as simple as possible while reducing downtime and the risk of complications, which is one of the main reasons why non-surgical otoplasty has grown in popularity. However, traditional otoplasty is still performed too.
There are two options available to patients looking to correct prominent ears.
Traditional Otoplasty Traditional otoplasty requires a surgeon to make a small incision at the back of the ear in order to expose the cartilage. Excess skin and cartilage is then removed before the ear is pinned to the head using dissolvable sutures. A bandage will be wrapped around the head to protect the ears and keep them in place and will need to be worn all day for up to 10 days after the surgery. Traditional otoplasty procedures last several hours and require general anaesthetic. Since this is also an invasive procedure, patients can expect the recovery process to be longer and more painful than non-surgical procedures, with most patients also experiencing scarring after their surgery. Patients can also expect itching, bruising and numbness following their surgery. There are other side effects that can occur that are slightly more serious such as infection, blood clots and hearing loss but choosing the right surgeon and carefully following post-op instructions will reduce the risk associated with ear surgery. Choosing the right surgeon will also ensure that the ears are not overcorrected, which could require further surgery and lead to additional costs and downtime. The average otoplasty surgery costs around $10,000, making it the more expensive way to correct protruding ears.
Non-Surgical Otoplasty Non-surgical otoplasty doesn’t require any incisions and only uses sutures to pin the ears back and achieve a more symmetrical appearance. These special sutures are woven into the ears and will remain in place permanently. The sutures are not visible or palpable after a brief recovery period. Patients can expect instant results and a headband will only need to be worn at night for 1 – 2 weeks, making it easier for them to return to school or work. Non-surgical otoplasty procedures take about an hour to complete and only require local anaesthetic and oral sedation. Patients will only experience some mild discomfort during the recovery process and will be able to return to their normal daily activities after a few days. Since no incisions are made, scarring is not an issue with this otoplasty option. One of the biggest benefits of non-surgical otoplasty is that the results can be reversed several days after the procedure should the patient not be happy with the results. Patients may experience some mild bruising and swelling following their procedure but they will see immediate results. As with any cosmetic or surgical procedure, infection is always a possibility, which is why it’s important to keep the ears clean. The average non-surgical procedure costs around $4,900 – $5,500, which is a third of what traditional otoplasty procedures cost.
While traditional otoplasty can be performed on children as young as 4, non-surgical otoplasty is better suited to patients who are 6 years and older as the ear will have already reached 80% of its adult size by this age. For infants with prominent ears, ear moulds can be used to correct the condition because the cartilage is still soft and malleable. However, this option can only be utilised 1 – 2 weeks after birth. If this window is missed, traditional or non-surgical otoplasty will need to be used to correct the deformity.
Below are a few things to keep in mind as you heal from your otoplasty procedure: