Otoplasty is the surgical reshaping of the pinna, or the outer ear. The procedure can be done to improve appearance or correct a deformity. The ears can be pinned back so they look better or reconstructed after an accident or a congenital deformity, where the outer ear is typically built up. ENT Specialists delves more into the causes of prominent ears and treatment options available.
Prominent ears can create self-esteem issue for children, leaving them subject to bullying from having ears that “stick out”. This can lead to psychological distress, can affect their well-being, and the way they act. It’s not just children that can have these feelings. Adults can also suffer, affecting day to day life. It can cause them to become distracted or worried about their appearance. Otoplasty is usually performed during childhood but can be done at any age. Over 4,000 otoplasty procedures were performed in the United States in 2017.
Most of the time the outer ear is positioned on the side of head at an angle of 20 to 35 degrees. When they stick out more than 35 degrees, they are considered prominent and will look like they are “sticking out.” It can run in families, but usually happens randomly. Having protruding ears should not cause hearing problems and only affects about 5 percent of the general population.
• Overdevelopment of the cartilage. The pinna will be more prominent if there is too much cartilage.
• Underdevelopment of the cartilage. Occurs when the ridge of cartilage at the top of the ear doesn’t fold correctly during development, or the outer edge of the ear doesn’t fold in toward the head but sticks instead.
• Ear injury. Prominent ears can be the result of injury.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that between 6 and 45 percent are born with a congenital ear deformity. 30% of children that have prominent ears had ears that looked normal at birth, but then developed their unusual shape in the first three months. There are times when these deformities will self-correct. If they don’t within a week after birth, either an otoplasty or a non-surgical correction can be done.
Ear splinting is the non-surgical option and can be done to treat infants 6 months or younger. Splints are used to reshape the cartilage while it is still soft. The splint will support the ear in the new position. After 6 months, the cartilage becomes too hard and can’t be remodeled with splints and surgery will be needed. A surgeon will use otoplastic techniques to correct, reconstruct, or replace a deformed, defective, or missing ear or pinna. The best results are achieved once the ears have reached their full size. This usually happens at age 5. Any missing folds can be remodeled, and the ear can be positioned closer to the head. Three main types of otoplasty:
• Ear augmentation can be done if the pinna is underdeveloped or non-existent.
• Otopexy can be done to “flatten” protruding ears by pinning them back.
• Ear reduction can be done to reduce the pinna when it’s too big.
Are you or a loved one dealing with prominent ears? Contact ENT Specialists to explain otoplasty and what you can expect from the procedure. Give us a call to schedule a consultation today.