Q: My daughter is 28 years old and hates her ears. She wants to cut her hair short, but is very hesitant because her ears stick out. Is it too late to do surgery on her ears?
A: Ear surgery or otoplasty is one of those procedures that can be done anytime from age 6. In girls, it is often delayed because they can hide their ears with their hair. In young boys, unless their hairstyle is long, the surgery is often done earlier because of the bullying factor at school.
As people get older, the surgery may be done without any associated risk after age 8.
Patient ears stick out because of one of two things. Either they have a large conchal bowl, which makes the whole ear stick out but the configuration of the year is normal; or their ears have no anti-helical folds and the very tops and sides stick out.
Depending on the age and the ability for the child or adult to cooperate, otoplasty may be done with sedation or general anesthesia if it’s a very young child. In some cases, patients will elect to do this surgery under strictly local anesthesia. The surgery takes about an hour and a half to complete.
The patient is sent home with a bandage around the ears, which will come off in one or two days. I frequently ask the patient to use a sweatband around their ears for the following two to three weeks only at night so as to not pull their ears while sleeping. Contact sports should be avoided for approximately four weeks.
Over the last 30 years, I have found that this operation is very satisfying to both young and older patients. The operation is safe when done by a well-qualified physician. Rarely, the ears may come out again and may need modification. As with any surgery, there is a very small risk of bleeding, infection and scarring. You could reassure your daughter that she is not too old for this very satisfying operation.