For a child, few things are more embarrassing than protruding or malformed ears. They will invariably become a focus of other kids at school. The subsequent teasing and ridicule can really impact the way a child develops his or her self-confidence and overall self-image. It’s a shame because adjusting overly protruding or other problems with the ears is not difficult.
Otoplasty is the clinical term for ear re-shaping surgery. While it is usually performed on children, otoplasty can fix the ears of anyone of any age. Dr. Steitz also uses ear surgery to fix issues such as torn and overstretched earlobes.
What Can Otoplasty Correct?
Ear surgery with Dr. Steitz can address a number of conditions. The most common goal of these procedures is to “pin” the ears closer to the head. Here are the conditions we remedy with ear surgery at St. Louis Facial Plastic Surgery:
- Protruding ears
- Overly large ears
- Misshapen ears
- Lop ear (the top of the ear folds downward)
- Shell ear (There is no outer border of cartilage)
- Overly large earlobes
- Torn or stretched earlobes
- Earlobes with creases and wrinkles
Good Candidates for Otoplasty
The only real requirement for otoplasty is that the patient needs to be at least 4 years old, the age at which our ears are fully developed. Otherwise, the criteria for having ears brought closer to the head or otherwise reshaped is pretty subjective. If you’ve noticed your child getting teased, or if he or she has mentioned such episodes, it’s probably a good time to take care of the situation. For children, the surgery is quite easily tolerated, so it could be something for you to simply have done for your child to pre-empt possible future teasing.
For adults, otoplasty can be performed, and be beneficial, at any age.
How Is Ear Surgery Performed?
When dealing with younger patients, Dr. Steitz usually opts for general anesthesia, as this allays any nervousness. For older patients, local anesthesia is usually all that’s needed.
The procedure begins with Dr. Steitz making a small incision behind the ear in the crease where the ear meets the head. Cartilage is then sculpted, shaped, and bent into a new position to achieve the desired proximity to the head. Sometimes, if only one ear is the object, the other ear still receives some attention to achieve symmetry between both ears.
If a patient, typically an adult, comes in with a torn earlobe, these repairs simply involve bringing the sides back together. The goal, obviously, is to minimize scarring. If the person opts to have the ear pierced again, the new piercing needs to avoid the previous incision but can otherwise be done without a problem.
How Long Will Results Last After Otoplasty?
The changes made by Dr. Steitz in these surgeries are permanent. 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. As mentioned above, our ears have finished growing for the most part by the age of four or five, so they won’t change moving forward.
Recovery After Otoplasty
After the procedure is finished, Dr. Steitz will have the patient’s head wrapped with a bandage. After a few days this will be replaced with surgical dressings that need to be worn for the remainder of the first week. At that time, stitches will be removed. There will be some throbbing for a couple of days, but that can be managed with pain medication. Patients need to avoid sleeping on the affected ear or ears for about two weeks. Children can return to school after about one week. Adults can return to work more quickly, usually within a couple days.
Will I Have Scarring After Ear Surgery?
For ear pinning procedures, Dr. Steitz places the incision behind the ear, so it becomes virtually invisible. If he repairs a torn earlobe or remedies an overly stretched earlobe, there will be a thin vertical line where the ear was sewn back together, but Dr. Steitz uses his double board-certified training, expertise, and experience to make these scars as minimal as possible. You’ll be surprised at how fast they disappear for the most part. To help the scar heal as camouflaged as possible, you need to keep it from receiving unprotected sun exposure for at least a couple months.
Can Otoplasty Affect Hearing?
No. These procedures only impact the outer ear. They have no contact with any of the inner aspects of the ear that affect hearing.
Risks of Ear Surgery
There are the same risks as with any surgery: bleeding, infection, poor incision healing, and the like. They are exceedingly rare with this limited surgery. 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.
Will Insurance Cover Otoplasty?
Otoplasty may be covered by your insurance if the surgery is to correct a congenital problem, such as a misshapen ear or asymmetry. Simply pinning the ears, however, often is not covered. This varies by the case and the insurance company.