Prominent Ears (Otoplasty)

Human ears come in an incredible assortment of sizes and shapes. One of the more common forms is that of prominent ears, which of course is just a variant of normal. The ears are not actually "large" but the cartilage fails to fold properly during development so that the side of the head is too far from the margin of the ear. A frequent reason for requesting surgery may be that children are teased by their peers, and in adults it is common to hear them say "I've always thought about having it done".

The aim of otoplasty surgery is to change the cartilage into a more aesthetic shape and relationship to the side of the head. From a technical point of view, this surgery can be carried out once the cartilage is strong enough to maintain its new contour, generally after 4-5 years of age.

What to expect from Surgery

The surgery to pin the ears back is called "otoplasty". It may be performed under a local or general anaesthetic, and I will discuss these options with you. Most often the procedure is perfomed as day surgery without the need to stay in hospital overnight. 

The surgical incision will be on the back of the ear and therefore not visible from the front. The exact technique in which the cartilage is reshaped is dependent upon the original shape of the ear and is designed to produce a natural looking form. This is a very important point and it is essential that the ears are not overcorrected. The other point to remember is that a person's two ears are rarely exactly the same before surgery and it is almost impossible to achieve complete symmetry after surgery too. This is really never an issue as long as you are aware of it in advance.

A well padded dressing is the applied to hold the ear in its new shape. This is removed at one week The sutures are self-dissolving. Most of the swelling and bruising settles within 10 days but it does take approximately 6 weeks for the final shape to be reached. The ear will also be numb initially but will recover within a few weeks. There is no change to your hearing at any stage.

I would suggest that you avoid contact sport for 4-6 weeks and ideally wear a head band at night whilst you sleep to protect the ears for a similar period of time.


Setback otoplasty or ear pinning is a very successful operation and adds significantly to a person's self confidence. Children often find the temporary discomfort well worth the end result and adults usually comment that they "should've had it done years ago!". As with any surgery however, it is essential for you to have a thorough understanding of what is involved so you are well prepared.