Ear Surgery and Your Child: Will it make a Difference?

Do you ears hang low?

Do they wobble to and fro?

Can you tie them in a knot?

Can you tie them in a bow?

While this children's song is meant to be cute and funny, it may hit a little too close to home for many kids and even some adults — especially those who have been bullied over the shape or size of their ears.

Most cosmetic surgeries are reserved for adults, but some — including ear surgery (otoplasty) — are options for children as young as age 5. (The ears reach their full size by the time a child turns 5 or 6.) In fact, some facial plastic surgeons provide this surgery for free to children whose families can't afford the $3,400 price tag. They do this because the surgery, when timed appropriately and performed successfully, can prevent a lifetime of teasing and dramatically improve a person's self-esteem and quality of life. Still, the decision to perform any cosmetic surgery on a child is not taken lightly. The facial plastic surgeon and/or a therapist will likely meet with your child several times before scheduling the procedure to ensure that your child is both physically and emotionally ready — and willing — to undergo the procedure.

What Can Ear Surgery Do?

In general, otoplasty can change the shape, position or proportion of the ears. The most common type of ear surgery is ear pinning, which is performed by moving the ears closer to the head to reduce their prominence. The incisions are hidden behind the ear in the natural fold where the ear joins the head. The surgeon removes some skin or cartilage and uses permanent stitches to pull the ear closer to the head.

Otoplasty isn't just for children. In fact, just about anyone with large ears or abnormally shaped ears may benefit from otoplasty. Your surgeon will develop a plan that specifically meets your concerns. Any change in ear shape will not affect hearing.

Is Your Child Ready for Otoplasty?

Recovery from ear surgery can be an issue for young children, who may not be able to sit still and/or follow doctor's orders. For example, there are typically dressings applied to the ears that must remain for a few days. It can also be hard to find a comfy sleeping position, and lack of sleep can exacerbate pain and prolong recovery.

Ear surgery is safe, but like all surgeries, it does pose certain risks, including infection. Most risks are reduced by following the doctor's post-op instructions carefully. Again, this doesn't always come easily for young children, most of whom want to run around and play with their friends, not sit still with their head or ears bandaged. These are important considerations for parents considering ear surgery for their children.

  • Halaas 58x57

    Yael Halaas, MD, FACS

    60 E. 56th Street
    3rd Floor
    New York, NY 10022
    (332) 239-6439

  • P

    Mune Gowda, MD

    3270 West Big Beaver
    Suite 415
    Troy, MI 48084

  • P

    Sean Maguire, MD

    Physician's Center for Beauty
    24 Chenoweth Lane
    Louisville, KY 40207
    (866) 774-9105