What is otoplasty and why is it performed?

Otoplasty is the medical term for ear surgery performed to improve the shape, proportion or position of the ear. As with many other plastic surgery procedures, the operation is performed for several reasons. Sometimes ear surgery is necessary to correct a malformation that has been present from birth; other times otoplasty is performed to repair the ear after an injury. In some cases, there is an obvious deformity present, while in other situations the surgery is performed for aesthetic reasons alone. Protruding or oddly shaped ears can be the cause of teasing or bullying among children, so the operation may be profoundly important in protecting the affected child’s self-esteem.

Conditions Treated by Otoplasty

A variety of conditions can be treated by otoplasty, including:

  • Macrotia, overly large ears
  • Anotia, the complete absence of an external ears
  • Microtia, extremely small or underdeveloped ears, often associated with hearing loss
  • Protruding ears, not associated with hearing loss, usually a cosmetic problem
  • Revision surgery to repair a surgical mistake during a previous otoplasty

Microtia and anotia are most frequently associated with hearing loss. Anotia and macrotia are extremely rare disorders.

Good Candidates for Otoplasty

Typically, otoplasty procedures are performed on children or teenagers, though they may be performed on adults as well. Children are good candidates for ear surgery if they are:

  • In good health without chronic ear infections or other underlying disease
  • At least 5 years old, the age at which a child’s ear cartilage has stabilized enough to be corrected
  • Cooperative and able to follow postsurgical instructions
  • Communicative and compliant with the planned procedure

In a similar vein, teenagers and adults are good candidates for otoplasty if they are:

  • Healthy patients with no serious or life-threatening underlying medical conditions
  • Non-smokers
  • Individuals who are emotionally prepared for the surgery and have a positive outlook

Results of Otoplasty

As with other plastic surgery procedures, it is important for the patient to have realistic expectations going into the operation and not hoping to replicate some ideal image of what he or she should look like. Each patient is an individual, and aesthetic results are designed to be as natural-looking at possible, making the ears harmonious with the other facial features.

The results of ear surgery will be immediately visible once the surgical dressings have been removed. In almost all cases, any scars are hidden behind the ear or within its folds. Choosing the right surgeon for an otoplasty is extremely important and should always be well-researched in terms of credentials and references.