Ear Lobe Surgery - Reconstructing Damaged Earlobes
Reviewed by Yael Halaas, MD
Earlobe surgery is performed to repair ear lobes that have been torn by earrings or trauma, or that have been intentionally stretched through the body piercing practice known as gauging. It is not the same as ear pinning (otoplasty), which is performed to correct protruding or misshapen ears.
How Earlobes Get Torn and Stretched
The ear lobe is made up of skin and fat. No bones. No cartilage. This is why it is more prone to tearing than other parts of the ear, which are composed of heavy cartilage.
The ear lobe can be torn by large, heavy earrings that pull downward. Tears can also occur if earrings are yanked by children or caught in clothing or other objects. Such tears may stretch out the original ear piercing tract. In some cases, the tears may continue through the bottom of the earlobe, causing a split lobe. Although some earlobe tears may heal over time, they can result in unsightly scars that make it hard to re-pierce the ear or wear earrings.
Stretched earlobes are often a result of intentional stretching through the use of progressively larger gauges. Regardless of the cause of the stretching, ear lobe surgery can repair the lobe and allow you to wear earrings again following surgery.
The Ear Lobe Surgery Procedure
Earlobe surgery is an outpatient procedure done with local anesthesia. It takes about one hour, although your time in surgery will depend on the extent of the procedure. Your surgeon cuts away the skin lining the tear or piercing tract, removes excess tissue (if necessary) and sutures the lobe back together. This usually results in a smaller earlobe.
If your lobe has been split, you will have to wait for the wound to heal before undergoing surgery. Surgery can take place immediately after a partial split.
In many cases, it is possible to re-pierce the ears as part of the earlobe surgery procedure. If you have your ears re-pierced during the procedure, you will receive stud earrings that you must wear for about two months before switching to other types of earrings.
Sometimes temporary spacers or stitches may be placed in the ears. These can be used for light earrings after six weeks and heavier earrings down the road, when your lobes have healed properly.
Ear Lobe Surgery Recovery
You may experience some discomfort following ear lobe surgery. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication can help. Your surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions regarding which OTC medications are safe as well as how to care for the surgical area. You will not need bandages on your ear lobes, but you will be asked to apply antibiotic ointment to the incisions to help prevent infection. Your stitches will be removed after the swelling has gone down. This typically occurs within one week.
The surgical recovery period is an important time during which the results of your procedure can be impacted. Regardless of whether it's a facelift recovery, eyelid surgery recovery, rhinoplasty recovery, ear surgery recovery, etc., it's important that you follow the advice of your physician to ensure optimal treatment results.
Keep in mind that any surgery entails some degree of risk. It is important that you fully understand the risks of ear surgery before committing to treatment.
How to Prevent Earlobe Tears
Choose lightweight or stud earrings instead of big hoops. Also, remove large, bright earrings when you are around kids, as young children may be tempted to grab and pull on them.
Cost of Earlobe Surgery
A number of factors can affect the cost of ear surgery, notably the extent of the procedure, where it is performed and the surgeon performing the treatment. In general, the cost of earlobe surgery ranges from about $400 to $900, although it can be higher for more extensive tears. The procedure is not typically covered by insurance, as it is purely cosmetic. If the cost is prohibitive, ask your surgeon about financing plans.
Choosing an Ear Lobe Repair Surgeon
If you are considering ear lobe repair, the first step is to locate a skilled surgeon with experience performing a range of ear surgeries. Because there are so many surgeons advertising their services, choosing the right one for you can be a daunting task. To help take some of the stress and worry out of the process, All About Facial Rejuvenation has developed a directory of highly qualified and skilled facial plastic surgeons. Click the Find a Surgeon button at the bottom of this page to start your search for the right surgeon now.
Once you have selected your surgeon, you will meet with him or her for an initial consultation. The surgeon will examine your ear lobe(s), gather your medical history and determine whether you are a candidate for the procedure.