Otoplasty is a type of cosmetic surgery involving the ears. During otoplasty, a plastic surgeon can adjust the size, positioning, or shape of your ears.

Some people choose to have otoplasty to correct a structural abnormality. Others have it because their ears protrude too far from their head and don’t like it.

Keep reading to discover more about otoplasty, who typically has it, and what the procedure is like.

Otoplasty is sometimes referred to as cosmetic ear surgery. It’s performed on the visible portion of the outer ear, called the auricle.

The auricle comprises folds of cartilage that are covered in skin. It starts to develop before birth and continues developing in the years after you’re born.

If your auricle doesn’t develop properly, you may choose to have otoplasty to correct the size, positioning, or shape of your ears.

There are several different types of otoplasty:

  • Ear augmentation. Some people may have small ears or ears that haven’t completely developed. In these cases, they may want to have otoplasty to increase the size of their outer ear.
  • Ear pinning. This type of otoplasty involves drawing the ears closer to the head. It’s performed on individuals whose ears stick out prominently from the sides of their head.
  • Ear reduction. Macrotia is when your ears are larger than normal. People with macrotia may choose to have otoplasty to reduce the size of their ears.

Otoplasty is typically used for ears that:

  • protrude from the head
  • are larger or smaller than normal
  • have an abnormal shape due to injury, trauma, or a structural issue from birth

Additionally, some people may have already had otoplasty and aren’t happy with the results. Because of this, they may choose to have another procedure.

Good candidates for otoplasty include those who are:

  • Ages 5 or older. This is the point when the auricle has reached 90 percent of its adult size.
  • In good overall health. Having an underlying condition can increase the risk of complications or affect healing.
  • Nonsmokers. Smoking can decrease blood flow to the area, slowing the healing process.

Let’s explore what exactly you can expect before, during, and after your otoplasty procedure.

Before: Consultation

Always choose a board certified plastic surgeon for otoplasty. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has a helpful search tool to help you find a board certified plastic surgeon in your area.

Before having your procedure, you’ll need to have a consultation with your plastic surgeon. During this time, the following things will happen:

  • Medical history review. Be prepared to answer questions about medications you’re taking, past surgeries, and any current or previous medical conditions.
  • Examination. Your plastic surgeon will evaluate the shape, size, and placement of your ears. They may also take measurements or pictures.
  • Discussion. This includes talking about the procedure itself, the associated risks, and potential costs. Your plastic surgeon will also want to hear about your expectations for the procedure.
  • Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear or you feel like you need more information. It’s also recommended to ask questions about your surgeon’s qualifications and years of experience.

During: The procedure

Otoplasty is typically an outpatient procedure. It can take between 1 to 3 hours, depending on the specifics and complexity of the procedure.

Adults and older children may receive local anesthesia with a sedative during the procedure. In some cases, general anesthesia may be used. General anesthesia is typically recommended for younger children undergoing otoplasty.

The specific surgical technique that’s used will depend on the type of otoplasty you’re having. Generally speaking, otoplasty involves:

  1. Making an incision, either on the back of your ear or inside the folds of your ear.
  2. Manipulating the tissue of the ear, which can include removal of cartilage or skin, folding and shaping of cartilage with permanent stitches, or grafting of cartilage to the ear.
  3. Closing the incisions with stitches.

After: Recovery

Following your procedure, you’ll have a dressing placed over your ears. Be sure to keep your dressing clean and dry. Additionally, try to do the following while your recover:

  • Avoid touching or scratching at your ears.
  • Choose a sleeping position where you aren’t resting on your ears.
  • Wear clothing you don’t have to pull over your head, such as button-up shirts.

In some cases, you may also need to have stitches removed. Your doctor will let you know if this is necessary. Some types of stitches dissolve on their own.

Common postsurgery side effects

Common side effects during the recovery period include:

  • ears that feel sore, tender, or itchy
  • redness
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • numbness or tingling

Your dressing will stay in place for about a week. After it’s removed, you’ll need to wear an elastic headband for another 4 to 6 weeks. You can wear this headband at night. Your doctor will let you know when you can return to various activities.

Like other surgical procedures, otoplasty has some associated risks. These can include:

  • a bad reaction to the anesthesia
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • ears that aren’t symmetrical or have unnatural-looking contours
  • scarring at or around the incision sites
  • changes in skin sensation, which are typically temporary
  • suture extrusion, where the stitches securing the shape of your ears come to the surface of the skin and have to be removed and reapplied

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of otoplasty is $3,156. The cost may be lower or higher depending on factors like the plastic surgeon, your location, and the type of procedure that’s used.

In addition to the costs of the procedure, there may also be other costs. These can include things like fees related to anesthesia, prescription medications, and the type of facility you use.

Otoplasty typically isn’t covered by insurance since it’s often considered cosmetic. That means you may have to pay costs out of pocket. Some plastic surgeons may offer a payment plan to help with costs. You can ask about this during your initial consultation.

In some cases, insurance may cover otoplasty that helps relieve a medical condition.

Be sure to talk with your insurance company about your coverage before the procedure.

Otoplasty is a cosmetic surgery for the ears. It’s used to adjust the size, shape, or position of your ears.

People have otoplasty for many reasons. These can include having ears that protrude, are larger or smaller than normal, or have an abnormal shape.

There are a few different types of otoplasty. The type that’s used and the specific technique will depend on your needs. Recovery usually takes several weeks.

If you’re considering otoplasty, look for a board certified plastic surgeon in your area. Try to focus on providers who have many years of experience performing otoplasty and a high satisfaction rating.