Otoplasty (Ear Reshaping)
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Reshaping the Protruding (or Prominent) Ear

Although protruding ears are considered a sign of good fortune by some, in most cultures, they are associated with feelings of anxiety and social discomfort.

Although protruding ears are considered a sign of good fortune by some, in most cultures, they are associated with feelings of anxiety and social discomfort.


Most people with protruding ears also have a deep concha, the bowl-shaped space just outside the opening of the ear canal, which pushes the entire ear away from the side of the head. Although protruding ears don’t cause any functional problems such as hearing loss, they can be a source of ridicule, especially for young children.  Today, there are a number of non-surgical and surgical techniques that allow for correction of this deformity with minimal pain and disruption of lifestyle.


Non-surgical ear molding

Protruding ears can often be corrected without surgery if your child comes to us early enough (within the first several weeks of life), while the ears are still soft. Ear molding uses a combination of a commercially available ear molding system to reshape the ear and bring it closer to the side of the head. The ear is splinted by the mold, and the amount of time required may vary depending on the age of your child. For a newborn, two weeks of treatment may be enough to correct the deformity. For older children, several months of ear molding may be required to achieve permanent correction because as your child grows, his or her ears become less flexible and less responsive to molding.

Otoplasty surgery

For adults or for children whose ears are too stiff for molding, surgical correction is an option. This type of ear surgery is sometimes called ear pinning, or setback otoplasty. It may be preferable to wait until about age 6, when ears are almost fully grown. This is also the age when children typically begin to be teased by their peers, which provides additional incentive to undergo surgery.

The procedure to correct protruding ears is usually performed through an incision behind the ears. A combination of cartilage scoring and suturing is used to create an antihelical fold. At times, additional sutures on the back of the conchal cartilage bring the entire ear closer to the side of the head. A postoperative dressing is used to help keep the ears in their new positions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a candidate for otoplasty surgery?

An ear is typically considered protruding if the helical rim sits over 2 cm away from the side of the head. As described above, non-surgical techniques can be effective for children within the first several weeks of life. Children whose ears are too stiff for molding and adults with protruding ears are candidates for otoplasty surgery.

By the time a child is 3 years old, 85% of auricular growth is complete, and the cartilaginous growth is almost complete by age 5 years.  Because of these growth characteristics, surgical intervention can be accomplished at the age of 5 or 6 years without hindering additional growth.

What otoplasty surgery technique is best for me or my child?

The ultimate goal of otoplasty surgery is to achieve a permanent aesthetic result by introducing normal anatomy and position into the protruding ear. Typically, we use a cartilage sparing technique by placing sutures to create a natural, normal appearing and positioned ear.

What is involved with otoplasty surgery?

The Initial Consultation

The initial consultation begins with understanding your history, performing a full head and neck examination, followed by a discussion of how best to meet your vision.

During your consultation, a variety of techniques for otoplasty may be discussed. A method is chosen that results in the best outcome for you. Pre and post-treatment examples of other similar patients are often reviewed.  The details of the procedure and post-operative care are explained, and any questions you may have are answered. If a plan is confirmed to move forward with surgery, you meet with our patient care coordinator to schedule a surgery date.

Pre-operative Visit

Prior to your surgery, you or your child may have one more pre-operative visit. This visit typically involves a pre-operative history and physical at our office. This visit is performed to assess any medical issues you may have and to ensure that your or your child’s surgery is conducted in the safest manner. Pre and post-operative instructions are reviewed, and this visit is also an opportunity for you to ask additional questions that may have arisen after the initial consultation.

Day of Surgery

Once in the pre-operative area, you will meet the nursing and anesthesiology staff who will take care of you or your child during your procedure. Your surgeon will meet with you and your family prior to the procedure to review the procedure and discuss any last minute questions you have. After the procedure is performed, you  or your child will be taken to the recovery room. An ear dressing will be in place that may be removed the next day at your post-operative visit or at home by you. All otoplasty procedures are performed as outpatient surgery, and you will be sent home with detailed post-operative instructions and pain medication. We will call you on the night of surgery to ensure that you are doing well and to answer any questions you may have.

Post-operative Visits and Follow-up Care

Your first post-operative visit will typically one week after surgery to assess healing. You will then follow-up at one month after surgery and usually every three to six months for the first year after your surgery to ensure adequate healing.


What are the risks or complications of otoplasty surgery?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks such as bleeding, infection, poor-healing, and risks related to undergoing anesthesia. More specific to otoplasty surgery, there are risks of deformity under-correction, over-correction, asymmetry, and the need for additional revision surgery.

With you from step one

Contact us below or call at 206.599.3223. We’re here to help answer your questions or to get you started with a consultation.

Contact our patient care team