Improve Ear Size and Shape with Otoplasty

For patients who are unhappy with the appearance of overly large or protruding ears, otoplasty can restore proportionality and balance. Also called ear surgery or “ear pinning,” this procedure can reduce both the size of the ears as well as their projection. At his Bethesda, MD, practice, Dr. Roger J. Oldham performs otoplasty surgery, which may involve reshaping or removing cartilage, as well as reconstructing missing parts of the outer ear or earlobe. This corrective treatment can benefit adults and children alike and have a significant impact on appearance, self-confidence, and quality of life.

What is Otoplasty?

Otoplasty is a surgical procedure that can improve the shape, size, proportions, and protrusion of the ears. It can correct certain defects present at birth as well as damage caused by trauma. Ear surgery can address: 

  • Congenital disorders like macrotia, or overly large ears
  • Excessive protrusion of one or both ears
  • Poor results from previous ear surgeries

Treatment is tailored to your unique aesthetic goals as well as your facial features for the most natural-looking results.


Otoplasty can effectively address protruding ears for a more balanced appearance.

Who Should Consider Ear Surgery?

Ear surgery is appropriate for both children and adults who feel self-conscious about their appearance due to the size or shape of their ears. Because the ears are typically fully formed by age four, the procedure is most suitable for children between the ages of five and 10. Provided the patient is healthy, ear surgery is a safe and effective way to improve appearance and self-confidence.

Your Consultation with Dr. Oldham

To determine if otoplasty is appropriate for you or your child, Dr. Oldham will conduct a comprehensive examination of the ears and listen to your concerns. After reviewing your medical history, he can determine whether ear surgery would benefit you. 

Types of Otoplasty

Otoplasty is an umbrella term referring to any form of cosmetic ear surgery, ranging from minimally invasive pinning to full ear reconstruction. It also includes ear or earlobe reduction and cauliflower ear surgery. There are three major types of otoplasty.

Ear Augmentation

This procedure is designed to help patients with underdeveloped or missing parts of their outer ear or earlobe. Often, ear augmentation involves reconstructive surgery that utilizes cartilage from other areas of the body to create a more natural-looking ear. Patients with underdeveloped or absent pinna (the external part of the ear) can undergo ear augmentation to enlarge and expand the structure.

Ear Reduction

This procedure addresses overly large or prominent ears, reducing the structures of the outer ear to make them smaller in size and more symmetrical. Reduction is a cosmetic operation that corrects macrotia, which causes the outer ear to appear normal but oversized.

Ear Pinning

The most common type of otoplasty is ear pinning. This procedure decreases the angle of the ear so it protrudes less from the head. Often, ear pinning also involves reshaping cartilage.

Preparing for Your Procedure 

Patients should stop using aspirin at least two weeks prior to surgery. On the day of the procedure, patients should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. It is important to wear clothes without restrictive collars. In addition, your shirt should be buttoned or zipped to avoid having to pull it over your head. Your hair should be pulled or pinned back before the procedure so it does not hang over your ears. You will need someone to pick you up from your procedure and stay with you for at least the first night.

During Your Otoplasty Procedure

Your treatment will depend upon your needs and goals. In most cases, ear surgery is an outpatient procedure that typically takes two hours or less. The amount of reshaping needed will affect the length of your surgery.

For children, we typically recommend general anesthesia. For adults, a local anesthetic will typically suffice, though it is usually combined with a mild sedative for greater comfort. You can discuss any concerns you have with Dr. Oldham before your procedure, and he can recommend the best anesthesia choice for you.

In most otoplasty procedures, Dr. Oldham will create small incisions behind the ears. These incisions expose the underlying cartilage, which can then be reshaped as needed. If you do not require augmentation or reduction, Dr. Oldham can use the same incisions to remove any excess skin or move the ears into a position closer to the head. Internal, non-removable sutures are used to create and secure newly shaped cartilage in place. When finished, Dr. Oldham can use external stitches to close the incisions.

Recovery and Aftercare

Once your incisions are closed, we can wrap your head in special, heavily padded, cotton bandages, referred to as “fluff bandages.” These surgical dressings will protect your ears for the first few days, after which you can remove them. You will need to wear a lighter bandage for another few days, but by the end of the first week, you should be able to remove all dressings. At this point, you will need to wear a soft headband that covers your ears and holds them in their proper position for a few weeks. Depending on your progress, Dr. Oldham may direct you to only wear the headband at night.

Adults can usually return to work in a few days, while children typically need a full week to recover before returning to school. You may experience mild discomfort during this time, which can typically be managed with over-the-counter pain medications as directed. 

For patients who are unhappy with the appearance of overly large or protruding ears, otoplasty can restore proportionality and balance. 

Throughout the recovery process, you should avoid rigorous activities and keep your head elevated until your ears have completely healed. It is also important to avoid sleeping on your side as much as possible. Dr. Oldham can provide you with specific post-surgical care instructions. Following these instructions can help ensure satisfying results.

Full recovery takes approximately six weeks. Keep in mind the appearance of your ears will change throughout healing. They may appear swollen or bruised right after the procedure, but they should gradually improve over time.

Is Ear Surgery is Right for You?

If you feel self-conscious about your ears, you may wish to consider ear surgery. Otoplasty can be beneficial for both adults and children, helping patients achieve a more harmonious appearance. To find out if ear surgery is right for you, contact our cosmetic surgery office online or call (301) 530-6100 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oldham.

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