When it comes to physical features, most of us give little thought to our ears. Tucked away on the sides of the head, most people’s ears draw little attention, even when bedecked with earrings, studs, and gauges. But for people whose ears are overly large, oddly shaped, or stick out too far from the sides of the head, ears can play a major role in feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence, and they can even make a child the target of cruel bullying.
Otoplasty (or ear surgery) can correct cosmetic issues affecting the ears so that children (and adults) can feel more confident about the way they look. In recent years, otoplasty has become increasingly popular as more parents become aware of the impact children's ears can have on their developing self-esteem. Although otoplasty is an elective procedure, that shouldn’t diminish its importance, especially to a child who suffers from critical remarks and teasing as a result of having oddly shaped ears. Otoplasty surgery is relatively straightforward and very safe. Still, for most parents, having any type of surgery performed on their child can raise a lot of questions. Here’s a quick rundown of what you should know if you’re considering an otoplasty for your child.
Do it while they’re young — but not too young
Ideally, you want your child to have otoplasty at a relatively young age to avoid the bullying or self-consciousness that may wreak havoc with your child's self-esteem and confidence. However, you should wait until your child is at least five or six years old to allow the ears time to fully grow and develop. Performing cosmetic otoplasty before this age means the results could change as the ears continue to form.
Know what otoplasty can fix
Otoplasty actually comprises multiple procedures, each designed to correct a specific problem. For kids, otoplasty is most commonly performed to:
- Change the shape of the ear
- Reduce the size of overly large ears
- Make the ears symmetrical
- Reshape the appearance of the ears so they’re in proportion with the head and the rest of the facial features
- “Pin back” ears that protrude too far from the side of the head
- Correct the appearance of malformed ears, including ears that are bent or cupped (sometimes called “shell ear”)
Don’t worry about hearing
Otoplasty doesn’t affect the way your child hears. The surgery only treats the exterior, non-functional portions of the ear, including the cup-shaped large part of the ear and the area where the ears attach to the head. While the external cup-shaped part of the ear can play a very small role in gathering sound, otoplasty doesn’t impair that function.
Scars can be hidden
Before performing ear surgery, Dr. Pastorek considers the shape of the ear and the surrounding natural folds to guide incision placement. In most instances, the incision can be carefully hidden in one of these natural folds or, more commonly, behind the ear where the scar can be completely unnoticeable.
Recovery is relatively quick
Following otoplasty surgery, most kids can expect to return to most of their regular activities within a couple of weeks or less. They'll need to take extra care to protect their ears for the first three to four weeks after surgery to avoid "dislodging" or damaging the ear while it's still healing. Any discomfort or swelling that occurs after the surgery can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medicine and by elevating the head. Both of these side effects typically resolve within a few days to a week or so.
Most otoplasty surgery takes about two hours to perform, and in many cases, it can be performed as an outpatient procedure using sedation and local anesthetics or general anesthesia for very young patients. Dr. Pastorek works closely with parents and kids to make sure everyone knows what to expect both during the procedure and afterward.
Learn more about pediatric otoplasty
If you're considering otoplasty for your child, having a surgeon who's experienced in pediatric procedures is critically important for achieving optimal outcomes. As a top facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Pastorek is skilled in performing otoplasty in both kids and adults, relying on the most advanced techniques and technology for the best results possible. To find out more about otoplasty and whether it could be a good choice for your child, book an appointment online today.