Prominent ears (sometimes called bat ears) occur in approximately 5% of the Australian population. The condition usually occurs because of impaired folding of the cartilage, which provides shape to the ear. This may affect one or both ears, and often runs in the family. Children (and adults) who have prominent ears are often teased about their appearance, resulting in poor self-esteem and confidence. Studies have shown that surgery to improve the appearance of children's prominent ears provides significant psychological benefits and improved sociability.
The procedure to correct prominent ears is called an Otoplasty. Otoplasty can be performed safely any time after 7 years of age. This age is chosen as the ears are almost fully grown, and importantly the child is mature enough to have some insight in to the procedure. It is also safe and effective in older children and adults. The technique involves a hidden scar behind the ear and repositioning of the cartilage with buried permanent sutures. The skin wound is closed with dissolving sutures, and covered with a head bandage. This is usually performed under a general anaesthetic as day surgery, or with an overnight stay for younger children.
Otoplasty is a very common cosmetic procedure, which has very high patient satisfaction and low complication rates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my child (or am I) suitable for an Otoplasty?
Most people with ear abnormalities (sometimes called big ears, bat ears, or prominent ears) that attract attention or cause worry are good candidates for this type of surgery. A personal consultation with Dr Woods allows a thorough assessment of your child's (or your) situation and provides an opportunity to discuss this.
What are the benefits of Prominent ear correction?
The surgery repositions the ears closer to the side of the head and also recreates the cartilage folding that is deficient. The goal is to create a natural appearance with the ear shape and position in harmony with the rest of the face. This procedure has a very high patient satisfaction rate and can improve confidence and self-esteem in children.
Where are the scars?
The scars are hidden in the fold behind the ear, and are rarely visible once they have settled.
Is the procedure painful?
Otoplasty is rarely a painful procedure and is tolerated well by children and adults -local anaesthetic is placed during the operation to provide initial pain relief and this can be supplemented with simple analgesics like paracetamol for the first few days after surgery.
How long does it take to recover from surgery?
The head bandage dressing is removed after one week. After this an elastic or sports head band is worn for a further two weeks full time then for three weeks just at night. The head band is worn afterwards to support the new position as normal scarring takes place, and also to prevent the ears folding the wrong way when sleeping or during activities. Bruising and swelling usually settles within two weeks. The skin scar will undergo a normal maturation process with initial darker pink colouring and slight lumpiness settling after 6-12 months. Children can return to school after 1 week, and adults may return to work in 2-3 days if they have sedentary roles, or 1 week if more vigorous labour is required. Contact sports are to be avoided for 6 weeks.
When will I notice the results and how long will they last?
The improved ear position will be immediately obvious when the head bandage is removed. The results are long lasting.
Will I be told the risks and complications?
All operations have a risk of complications, however major complications are rare after otoplasty. During your initial consultation, Dr Woods will have a thorough discussion with you about the risks and complications of surgery. Dr Woods will only recommend surgery if he feels that the procedure will provide substantial benefit with limited risk.