Pinning back the ears is known as an otoplasty, or pinnaplasty. It’s usually carried out on children and young teenagers, although adults may wish to have it done, too.
An otoplasty isn’t suitable for children younger than five as their ears will still be growing and developing.
Most people are happy with the results of an otoplasty, and generally it’s a safe procedure. But it can be expensive and there are still risks to consider.
What does it involve?
An otoplasty for an older child or adult can be done under local anaesthetic by a plastic surgeon.
It generally involves:
making one small cut (incision) behind the ear to expose the ear cartilage
removing small pieces of cartilage if necessary
scoring and stitching the remaining structure into the desired shape and position
Or, you may be offered a newer technique that involves scoring the cartilage through the ear skin using a needle. No incision is made, but there’s not much good evidence about the long-term quality or safety of this method.
During the first few days after surgery, your ears may be sore and tender or numb. You may have a slight tingling sensation for a few weeks.
You may need to wear a bandage around your head for the first few days to protect your ears from infection. You won’t be able to wash your hair during this time.
Some surgeons recommend wearing a head band at night for several weeks to protect the ears while you sleep.
There may be some slight bruising, which can last about two weeks. You may want to delay returning to work or school until the bruising has disappeared.
Sometimes the stitches may come to the surface of the skin or cause the ear to feel tender. Pain and discomfort can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
You need to avoid swimming and activities that put your ears at risk of injury – such as judo or rugby – for several weeks.
Within 5 to 10 days: Stitches are removed (unless they were dissolvable stitches) and any bandage would probably come off.
After a week or two: Most children would be able to return to school.
After eight weeks: Swimming should be OK.
After 12 weeks: Contact sports should be OK.