Skip Navigation
Search Menu
Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

In This Section      
Print This Page

Otoplasty (Ear Reshaping)

Otoplasty, or ear reshaping, is performed to “pin back” ears that protrude or reshape, reduce in size, or make the ears more symmetrical. At the Johns Hopkins Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, our physicians may recommend otoplasty in conjunction with other procedures to improve one’s general appearance and bring balance to the entire face. 

Individuals who had an otoplasty, or ear reshaping, have told me that they felt more confident afterwards.

- Dr. Kofi Boahene

Is Otoplasty for You?

The goal of otoplasty is to surgically correct protruding or deformed ears. Otoplasty will not alter hearing ability. What is important for successful otoplasty is that the ears be in proportion to the size and shape of the face and head.

Important factors to be discussed with your surgeon include:

  • Skin type
  • Ethnic background
  • Individual healing rates
  • Age

Adult candidates for otoplasty should understand that the firmer cartilage of fully developed ears does not provide the same molding capacity as in children. A consultation with a facial plastic surgeon can help parents decide what is best for their child, not only aesthetically, but also psychologically and physically. Timing is always an important consideration. Having the procedure at a young age is highly desirable in two respects: the cartilage is extremely pliable, thereby permitting greater ease of shaping; and secondly, the child will experience psychological benefits from the cosmetic improvement.

Making the Decision for Otoplasty

Otoplasty Illustration

What you should expect:

  1. During the preliminary consultation, your surgeon will take a thorough medical history, as well as assess the patient's mental and emotional attitudes toward the surgery. Because a realistic attitude is crucial to the success of the surgery, the surgical procedure and realistic expectations will be discussed.
  2. Your surgeon will examine the structure of the ears and discuss possibilities for correcting the problems. Even if only one ear needs "pinning back," surgery will probably be recommended on both ears to achieve the most natural, symmetrical appearance
  3. Photographs will be taken so the surgeon can study your face and ears.
  4. Individual risks will also be examined, especially those related to medical situations such as high blood pressure, a tendency to scar, smoking, and any deficiency in blood clotting.
  5. After the decision to proceed with ear surgery is made jointly by you and your surgeon, the surgeon will describe:

a.    The technique indicated
b.    Type of anesthesia recommended
c.    The surgical facility
d.    Any additional surgery
e.    Possible complications
f.     Costs of the procedure

Typically, your surgeon will suggest a general anesthesia for young patients and a local anesthetic combined with a mild sedative for older children and adults. Under normal conditions, otoplasty requires approximately two hours.

Understanding Otoplasty Surgery

Following is a general description of the way otoplasty is performed by our expert facial cosmetic surgeons. Remember each patient’s individual needs and features are considered before your surgery. 

  1. Surgery begins with an incision just behind the ear, in the natural fold where the ear is joined to the head.
  2. The surgeon will then remove the necessary amounts of cartilage and skin required to achieve the right effect.
  3. In some cases, the surgeon will trim the cartilage, shaping it into a more desirable form and then pin the cartilage back with permanent sutures to secure the cartilage.
  4. In other instances, the surgeon will not remove any cartilage at all, using stitches to hold the cartilage permanently in place.
  5. After sculpting the cartilage to the desired shape, the surgeon will apply sutures to anchor the ear until healing occurs to hold the ear in the desired position.

What to Expect After Otoplasty Surgery

Note:  These are general guidelines. Please ask your doctor to fully explain what your expectation should be post surgery.

  1. Soft dressings applied to the ears will remain for a few days. Most patients experience some mild discomfort.
  2. If you are accustomed to sleeping on your side, your sleep patterns may be disrupted for a week or so because you cannot put any pressure on the ear areas. Headbands are sometimes recommended to hold the ears in the desired position for two weeks after the surgery.
  3. The risks are minimal. There will be a thin white scar behind the ear after healing. Because this scar is in a natural crease behind the ear, the problem of visibility is inconsequential.

Follow-up Care

Follow-up care is vital for this procedure to monitor healing. Obviously, anything unusual should be reported to your surgeon immediately. It is essential that you keep your follow-up appointments with your surgeon.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment or to get more information about the Johns Hopkins Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, please call 877-546-4530.

Back to top

Illustration courtesy of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery