Otoplasty, also known as pinnaplasty, ear reshaping or pinning back your ears, is one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures in the UK and America. Around 2% of people in the UK say that they feel their ears are too large or stick out too much, and both adults and children have the procedure to effectively pin the ears back closer to the head.
Having overly protruding ears does not have any physiological effects, but may cause psychological ones. Ears are one of the first parts of the body which develop to full adult size, and because of this protruding ears in youngsters can be particularly noticeable. As we know, children can latch on to a significant feature and use it to mock an individual, and sticky out ears can be a common cause of teasing, bullying and name-calling amongst children. For this reason, a parent may feel an otoplasty procedure is justified as it will relieve the pressure from bullying and improve the child’s self-esteem and confidence. Children usually have the procedure between the ages of 5 and 14 years. At a young age, the cartilage in the ear is soft and spongy and is therefore easier to mould and reshape. Youth also allows for a slightly quicker healing time. However, after the operation you must wear a head bandage for around a week, and after that it is recommended to wear a head band, if only at night, for a short amount of time. Therefore it may be wise to keep the child home from school until the bandage is removed to divert further bullying.
Neonatal otoplasty can be performed on babies 6 months old or younger. It is a non-surgical procedure that requires the use of splints to trains the ears to grow in a different direction. It is thought of as a safe and effective treatment but can only be used on young babies as the cartilage is still forming and is therefore much more malleable. It is recommended that you seek advice from your doctor or health visitor before applying splints to an infant as a small amount of training is needed in order to know how to apply them correctly.
As otoplasty is seen as a cosmetic surgical procedure, it is increasingly difficult to get the surgery free on the NHS. However, if you feel mentally traumatised by the appearance of your ears and feel this is having an adverse effect on you, you should request a referral and psychological consultation from your GP. Certain regions do make exceptions for granting otoplasty on the NHS, especially for children, so it is always wise to consult your GP before looking at private clinics.