Our genes largely dictate the shape and size of our ears. In these respects, ears can vary enormously between individuals as well as between the right and left side. In situations where the ears appear to be particularly prominent or when the shape looks decidedly out of the normal, psychological effects are often experienced. The child with protruding ears is often the subject of continuous taunts and teases that remind them again and again of their deformity. Feelings of self- consciousness, rejection and hostility can become underlying reactions to lack of peer acceptance. While adults generally do not express such attitudes openly, the grown individual frequently maintains the same sensitivities that were present during childhood. Although fortunately long hair can cover the ears, these can become obvious in windy conditions or when the hair is wet. If the ears are very prominent however, practically no hairstyle can hide them.
More recently, a fuller understanding of the anatomy and the development of the ear has allowed us to treat prominent or deformed ears non surgically in the first 8 weeks of life. This basically consists of a 6 week period of splintage. In 95% of early cases treated in this way, surgical intervention will not be required. Sadly if splintage is not performed at this critical early stage then the deformity will persist and thus will require surgical intervention if it is to be corrected. In these cases surgical correction can be performed quite effectively as early as the fourth year. Most surgeons would recommend having surgery just before a child starts school. In the preschool age group the deformity is often unnoticed by playmates and so the psychic trauma is minimised. Once school begins however, the situation frequently changes. In all cases parents should stay alert to their child’s feelings about protruding ears along with any effects this may engender.
Providing one understands that the goal of otoplasty is improvement and not perfection, it can be ranked as one of the more successful cosmetic surgery procedures. If you’ve discussed the procedure and your expectations before the operation, chances are you’ll be quite pleased with the result. By significantly improving the appearance of prominent or misshapen ears, successful otoplasty can also boost an individuals personal confidence and self esteem.