Ear Surgery

Plastic Surgeons Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Santa Clara & Nearby South Bay, California

Ear surgery, also known as otoplasty or ear pinning, is a facial plastic surgery procedure used to improve the appearance of the ears by altering their size, shape, or position. While cosmetic in nature, otoplasty is often performed on younger children who face bullying and other cruelties due to large or protruding ears.

If you are unhappy with the appearance of your ears or feel like they change the balance and symmetry of your head, our board-certified plastic surgeons can help. Call Altos Oaks Plastic Surgery at 650-934-7020 to schedule your initial consultation and learn more.

Why Consider Ear Surgery

You may wish to consider ear surgery if you feel your ears detract from your overall appearance. This may be due to:

  • Ears that are disproportionately large
  • Ears that protrude from the head
  • Injury or trauma to the ears
  • Birth defects
  • Poor results from a previous surgery

Otoplasty creates symmetry and makes the ears proportional to other facial features. This can have a profound impact on the appearance of your entire face. If your ears are a source of emotional discomfort, contact our Los Altos plastic surgeons today to schedule a consultation where you can discuss your concerns and learn if otoplasty is the best choice for your needs.

Ear Surgery Infographic

Ear Pinning Candidates

Good candidates for ear surgery are:

  • Healthy
  • Nonsmokers
  • Able to follow directions
  • Able to rest for a few days after surgery

Ear pinning is a surgical procedure during which excess cartilage is removed. Some procedures require the insertion of permanent sutures as well. How closely you follow our pre and postoperative directions will have a direct impact on your experience and results.

How Does Otoplasty Work?

The reason some people's ears look more prominent is that they have excess cartilage referred to as conchal hypertrophy. This makes the ears protrude too far from the head. Conchal hypertrophy is corrected by removing the excess cartilage and, if needed, placing stitches to hold the ears closer to the side of the head. Other techniques are used based on the type of protrusion or enlargement that is present. Often, patients with protruding ears also have some bit of lopping or prominence in the upper area of the ears. This is usually due to an underdeveloped or absent superior crus along the upper fold of the ear. This may be corrected with permanent sutures. 

Is Otoplasty Recovery Painful?

Otoplasty recovery does involve some bit of pain, but usually not nearly as much as patients expect. Generally, pain medication is only needed for two to three days. After that point, it may be needed only at night to help sleep. 

Will there be Scars After Otoplasty Surgery?

Otoplasty is a surgical procedure that involves incisions, so will inevitably include some scarring. The good news about this procedure is that the surgeon makes incisions in the crease where the ear meets the scalp. The scars that occur after surgery may be felt at first. If you look at them up close, they may look red and raised. The color and texture of the scars fade over time. It can take up to one year for scars to completely mature. By that time, the lines should be so light that they aren't noticed even if you have short hair or wear your hair up.

Can My Ears Go Back to the Way They Were?

Recurrence is not likely after the otoplasty procedure but it's also not impossible. Recurrence is very rare and usually happens only when the ears are bumped or injured shortly after the ear surgery has taken place. To minimize the risk of injury, it's necessary to wear bandages strictly as directed for the full length of time outlined in the post-operative care instructions. If you have questions, please contact the office right away. 

One Ear Looks Larger than the Other. Can Otoplasty Help With This?

When the ears protrude, they look more prominent. Ears that are more prominent can also look asymmetrical. The imbalance may be relatively slight but, because of the protrusion, looks worse than it may really be. In fact, most ears are not perfectly symmetrical. After the ears are pinned to sit closer to the scalp, some bit of asymmetry may persist. However, because the ears are in a more normal position, they should appear more balanced. So, yes, if you or someone you love has ears that look out of balance, otoplasty should help improve the situation!

Recovery and Results

Otoplasty incisions are typically made behind the ear. In some cases, incisions will need to be made in the front folds of the ear to access the areas being sculpted. While hidden from sight, incisions will need to be kept dry and clean in the days following your procedure.

You will be sent home with a surgical dressing to keep the incisions clean and help hold your ears in their new position during the first few days of recovery. It is important that you not rub, scratch, or in any way manipulate the treatment area during the time you have this bandage on. Any discomfort you feel during recovery can be addressed with pain medications.

Your dressing will be removed when you are ready - typically within three to seven days. At this point, your ears may be red and swollen, but their new shape will be taking form. Swelling will gradually reduce on its own. This process can be assisted by taking several walks during the day to improve blood flow.

Results may take four to six weeks to be fully realized. During this time, you may be instructed to avoid certain activities, including swimming and aerobic exercise, along with blood-thinning medications, supplements, and herbs. We will help you determine when it is safe to resume all activities during your follow up visits.

What Type of Anesthesia is Used During Ear Pinning Surgery?

The type of anesthesia used during ear pinning surgery is dependent on factors unique to the procedure such as which technique is being used and how much work will need to be done in order to achieve ideal results. Depending on these and related factors, we may elect to use general or local anesthesia for ear pinning surgery.

How Long Does an Ear Pinning Surgery Procedure Take?

A majority of the ear pinning procedures at Altos Oaks Plastic Surgery take around two hours. Yours may take more or less time depending on factors unique to your anatomy and procedure. One of our board-certified plastic surgeons will be able to provide more information about how long ear pinning may take during the planning phase of your procedure.

Is Otoplasty (Ear Pinning) Procedures Covered by Insurance?

Otoplasty is typically considered an elective procedure and will not be covered by insurance. This is, of course, not the case with every policy. It is best if you check with your plan provider to find out for sure. We accept all major credit cards, cash and money-orders, checks, and some financing plans. If you are concerned about paying for your procedure, give us a call to learn more about our financing options.

How can I Prepare Myself/My Child for Otoplasty?

Prior to surgery you will be asked to discontinue certain over-the-counter and prescription medications. Some herbs and supplements may need to be avoided as well. If you use tobacco, you will be required to quit at least six weeks in advance of your procedure. Nicotine will slow your healing response and significantly increases the risk of infection and poor wound healing/large scars. We will cover anything specific that will be required of you in preparation for surgery long before your procedure, giving you time to plan and act accordingly.

What are the Risks Associated with Ear Pinning Surgery?

General surgical risks include infection, bleeding, poor wound healing, and negative reactions to anesthesia. Risks specific to otoplasty include asymmetrical results, overcorrection, loss of sensation around the ears, and complications with the permanent stitches used to hold the ears in place. Risks with otoplasty are rare, made more so when you trust your procedure to a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs ear pinning in an accredited surgical facility. At Altos Oaks Plastic Surgery, your health and happiness are top priorities. During your time in our care, we will discuss ways to reduce risks and improve outcomes.


Contact Us to Learn More

If you are unhappy with the appearance of your ears, call Altos Oaks Plastic Surgery at 650-934-7020 to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons today. Located in Los Altos, we welcome otoplasty patients from San Jose, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, and all surrounding areas of California.