In recent years, ear stretching has become a popular form of self-expression for both men and women alike.

While stretched, gauged ears are a personal choice for some, others may experience stretched or torn earlobes as an indirect result of earring hole trauma.

When it comes to unintentionally stretched or torn ear holes, there are many surgical options to repair the damage. In this article, we’ll explore what causes stretched-out or ripped earlobes, repair options, and how to prevent earlobe damage.

Earring hole damage can occur due to a variety of causes, from intentional stretching to accidental rips. The most common earring hole injuries are:

  • stretched ear holes, which can occur when the ear hole is stretched due to frequent use of heavy earrings or large gauges
  • torn ear holes, which can occur accidentally if an earring is snagged or pulled, or after long-term use of heavy earrings or large gauges

Stretched earring holes tend to resemble a slit, rather than a small hole, and often create the appearance of sagging or drooping earlobes. It may become more difficult to fit regular earrings into an overly stretched ear hole.

In most cases, stretched ear holes aren’t painful — rather, many people simply find them unattractive. But if ear holes are continuously stretched, they can tear.

Torn earring holes can also happen accidentally, like if an earring is snagged or pulled too hard. A torn earhole leaves a permanent split in the earlobe, which will no longer be able to hold an earring or gauge.

Unfortunately, both stretched and torn ear holes require surgery to repair. This is because in many cases, the scar tissue that forms during stretching or tearing prevents the hole from fully closing naturally.

Many different surgical procedures can be used to repair a stretched or torn earring hole. The type of surgery used ultimately depends on the extent of the damage to the earlobe.

Side-to-side closure

The side-to-side closure technique is a simple outpatient procedure that is commonly used for earring hole repair, especially in children who may have torn an earlobe accidentally.

First, the ear is numbed using a local anesthetic. Next, the scar tissue surrounding the inside of the wound is cut away to reveal fresh tissue. This is crucial in allowing the skin to fuse back together again.

Finally, stitches are made on both sides of the open wound and pulled tightly to bring the skin back together. During the healing process, the hole or split will close fully as the skin heals itself.

Purse-string closure

The purse-string closure is a procedure that is used primarily for round skin wounds. While not the most popular option, the purse string closure does have a potential use for stretched earlobes.

First, the ear is numbed using a local anesthetic, which is followed up by removing the scar tissue to allow the skin to heal completely.

Next, loose stitches are made around the outside of the open wound. Finally, the string is pulled tight to completely close the hole. During the healing process, the hole will close as the skin heals.

It is important to note that this procedure can cause more visible scarring than the side to side closure, and the skin may “pucker” during the healing process.

Anterior–posterior flap modification

The anterior-posterior flap modification is a slightly more complicated cosmetic procedure that can be used to repair overly stretched ear holes.

First, the ear is numbed using a local anesthetic. There is no need to remove the scar tissue for this procedure because the hole will be covered, rather than fused back together.

Next, two flaps are created, one on each side of the ear on opposing sides of the stretched hole. These flaps are then pulled through to the opposite side of the stretched hole and stitched shut.

During the healing process, the original hole eventually heals completely.

Unless you’re intentionally stretching your earring holes with gauges, most people don’t want stretched earlobes.

Unfortunately, once an earring hole has been stretched or torn, there is no way to repair the hole or tear without surgery. This means that prevention is the best approach.

Here are some tips to help you avoid stretched or ripped earring holes:

  • Stick to lightweight or threader earrings. Lightweight earrings won’t stretch out your ear holes the way that heavy earrings might. Sticking to lightweight earrings, or even threader earrings, can help keep your ear holes small and supported.
  • Only wear heavy earrings for short periods. Try to limit the weight you put on your earlobes by keeping your heavy earrings for special occasions only. If you do plan to wear heavy earrings, make sure to take them off as soon as your event is done.
  • Avoid wearing earrings that can easily snag. Certain combinations of earrings and clothes are more likely to result in an accidental tear. Always remove tops carefully when you have earrings in and avoid pairing long earrings with materials such as knits or lace.
  • Remove your earrings before bed. Most people have no problem going to sleep with earrings in, but all it takes is a single snag to cause a torn ear hole. Removing your earrings before bed (after they have healed) can help avoid any overnight accidents.

Finally, treat your ears as you would any other body part — with great care. If you notice that you’re having a lot of problems with your earrings or earring holes, consider that earrings might not be for you.

Stretched and torn earring holes can be the result of both long-term and short-term trauma. This includes the excessive use of heavy earrings and gauges, or accidentally snagging and pulling an earring.

While prevention is the best method for keeping your earring holes small, sometimes it’s not enough to prevent a stretched or torn earlobe.

If your earring holes have been stretched or ripped, reach out to your doctor to discuss your treatment options. A variety of surgical procedures can help repair the damage and restore your earlobes.