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Common Questions About Otoplasty Answered

Tampa Bay otoplasty model with brown hair

Do you feel that your ears are too big compared to the size of your face? Maybe you feel that they look different from each other or don’t like how they are shaped. Or perhaps you have a defect or disproportion of your ears that has been present since you were born. If you deal with any of these problems, then you are not alone, and otoplasty may be the perfect solution for you. This is just one of the many cosmetic surgical procedures that we offer here at Tampa Bay Plastic Surgery.

You may wonder what otoplasty is and how it can benefit you. We will answer those questions in this article. We will also answer some other common questions about this ear surgery, such as who qualifies as a candidate and what you can expect from the treatment process.

What Causes Ear Defects?

Knowing what causes prominent, asymmetrical, or misshapen ears can help you determine if otoplasty is a good solution for your ears. There are several factors that cause the outer ear to be disproportionate, misshapen, or asymmetrical. These factors can be present at birth and manifest themselves as a person develops and grows. Your concerns could also be the result of external factors. These include the underdevelopment of cartilage, overdevelopment of cartilage, and trauma or severe injury.

Underdevelopment of Cartilage

The outer edge of the ear can stick outward instead of folding in toward the head when the helix, or outer ridge of the ear, does not fold properly during development. Because this is the outer ridge of the ear, this birth defect can cause the ears to appear much larger than the head.

Overdevelopment of Cartilage

The pinna is much more likely to be too prominent compared to the head if the pinna has an excess of cartilage.

Trauma/Severe Injury

Trauma or injury to the ears can change their shape and appearance of ears no matter what the age of the patient. This most often causes ears that are asymmetrical.

What Is Otoplasty?

Otoplasty, which is also known as ear surgery or “pinning”, can provide a solution to prominent or asymmetrical ears. This is a specialized, innovative procedure that improves the structure and look of the ear. This is achieved by surgically reshaping the outer ear and then “pinning” it back.

This procedure is most common among younger patients, though many adults also have the surgery completed. It helps to achieve a balanced ear positioning on the head to provide a proportional, even look.

Types of Ear Surgery

There are three different types of ear surgery: ear augmentation, otopexy, and ear reduction. Which type is chosen depends on your personal shape and positioning of the ears as well as your desired outcome.

Ear Augmentation

Ear augmentation is needed when the pinna is underdeveloped or non-existent. This condition is known as microtia and can cause the ears to be asymmetrical or appear too small and flat on the head. The doctor will add material until the ears are the correct size and shape.


Otopexy is needed if the ears are overly protruded. This is the type of ear surgery typically known as pinning and involves removing a small amount of cartilage if necessary and using stitches to “pin” the ears back to the head. Sufficient recovery time is given so that the ears will be flatter to the head once the stitches are removed.

Ear Reduction

Ear reduction is needed when the pinna is too large. This condition is known as macrotia and can also cause the ears to appear much bigger than the head. The appropriate amount of cartilage will be removed and stitches will be placed, similar to an otopexy.

What Are the Benefits of Otoplasty?

Otoplasty offers many benefits that make it a popular choice for parents who want to help their children and adults who wish to fix their own ears. Patients love that it is safe, versatile, and long-lasting. It also improves self-confidence and can improve interactions with others.

1. It Is Safe

Ear surgery is actually one of the safest kinds of surgeries in the entire medical field. Adult patients only have to receive a mild anesthetic to manage any discomfort during the surgery. Like any other procedure, children should undergo anesthesia before the procedure. However, there are little to no long-term risks for children because the surgery is done while their cartilage is still developing.

2. It Is Versatile

Ear surgery is so popular because it can be used for both cosmetic and reconstructive purposes. It treats a variety of ear defects such as protruding, cupped, folded, small, overly large, and even ‘cauliflower’ ears. If there is an ear defect caused by severe injuries or trauma such as result from car accidents, sports, or other situations, ear surgery can also provide an effective solution.

3. It Provides Long-Lasting Results

Because most ear surgeries involve removing cartilage and physical reshaping, the results will last forever. This means that you won’t have to worry about your ears returning to their former appearance after the surgery.

4. It Improves Self-Confidence

When ears are disproportionate or asymmetrical, it can negatively affect your self-image. This is especially true in children, who desire to appear “normal” like everyone else. Being the only child who appears to have ears that are not proportionate or symmetrical can negatively affect your child’s self-confidence and even affect his or her ability to enjoy activities they used to love. Ear surgery can help your child to feel happier and better about the appearance of their ears.

Ear issues can also affect adults. Being constantly worried that someone else notices your ears can affect your self-confidence and even make you avoid wearing headwear or helmets. Ear surgery can allow you to like what you see in the mirror so you can focus your attention on other things besides your appearance.

5. It Can Provide Improved Interactions

Ear surgery can cause improved interactions with others, especially for children. Unfortunately, children often mock and even bully other children who have ears that protrude or are disproportionate. By reshaping your child’s ears through ear surgery, your child can be free from teasing and bullying, allowing him or her to focus better on school and activities they enjoy with others.

Even adults may experience teasing or mocking because of their ears, affecting their desire to interact with others and making it hard to focus on work. After having ear surgery completed, most patients feel an emotional release and a sense of normalcy that allows them to interact with others freely.

Do I Qualify As a Candidate?

If you are interested in ear surgery after doing your research, you may wonder if you or your child personally qualify as a candidate. As with any surgery, there are several criteria that must be met to qualify as a candidate. There are also some conditions that may disqualify you or your child as a candidate.

Ideal Candidates

An ideal candidate for ear surgery will be at least five years old and relatively healthy. The candidate will feel dissatisfaction with the shape, size, symmetry, or protrusion of their ears and have realistic expectations of what surgery can achieve.

Those Who May Not Be Candidates

Children who are younger than the age of five years old are not candidates for ear surgery. This is because their ear cartilage is still developing and will be too soft for stitches to hold.

Because it is such a safe procedure, there are no other major disqualifications for ear surgery. The candidate will need to be sure to discuss all medical conditions and medications with their personal physician to determine if it will be safe for them to complete the surgery, depending on their personal situation.

What Can I Expect From the Treatment Process?

Any type of surgery can be daunting, so knowing what you can expect from the treatment process can help to ease any worries and determine if you would like to complete the procedure.

Before the Procedure

Before the surgery, you will need to set up a one-on-one consult with your doctor to determine if you are a candidate. During this procedure, the doctor will perform an exam and discuss your medical and surgical history, current medical conditions, and any allergies and medications. It is important to discuss all information truthfully and openly with your doctor to ensure that the procedure will be safe and effective for you.

If you or your child are determined as a candidate, the doctor will go over pre-treatment instructions and answer any questions you have. Be sure to follow all instructions closely.

During the Procedure

Many adults only have to undergo a mild intravenous sedation with local anesthesia for surgery. General anesthesia is used for children. After satisfactory anesthesia and/or sedation is achieved, the surgeon will make an incision behind or within the inner creases of the ear depending on the type of ear surgery needed. He or she will then remove excess cartilage or add cartilage material to the ear depending on your personal situation.

The cartilage will be folded into the proper position and secured with internal stitches. Additional external stitches will be used to close the incisions. The entire procedure usually takes one to two hours to complete.

After the Procedure

After surgery, the doctor will place bandages over your ears to facilitate healing and keep the ears in place. These bandages will need to be worn for several days. You may need to refrain from washing your hair during these few days to avoid getting the bandages wet. After the bandages are removed, you will be instructed to wear a loose, supportive headband over your ears at night to remove help remove tension from the ears.

Patients can typically return to work or school within a week of surgery and restart regular activity and exercise within two weeks. You will want to avoid physical contact sports for at least three months and avoid swimming for up to eight weeks after surgery. Follow all doctor instructions regarding medications, products, and foods to avoid after surgery for optimal results and personal safety.

Getting the Ears You Desire

We know how dissatisfaction with your ears can affect your self-confidence and your ability to interact with others freely. If you are interested in otoplasty and would like to see if it would benefit you, contact us here at Tampa Bay Plastic Surgery today! Dr. Halpern would love to set up a consult and help you get the ears that you desire.

Schedule your consultation with Dr. David E. Halpern today

Dr. David E. Halpern is Tampa’s nationally renowned triple-board certified plastic surgeon, carefully blending expertise and artistry with extraordinary care. For the past two decades, Dr. Halpern’s dedication to exceptional care and commitment to his patients have made him Tampa’s most trusted plastic surgeon. Place your confidence in the capable hands of Tampa plastic surgeon Dr. David E. Halpern by scheduling a consultation today.

Tampa Bay Plastic Surgery is located in the Hyde Park area of South Tampa. We serve patients in Tampa Bay, Hyde Park, and out-of-town patients across Florida and beyond.

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