One of the most fascinating things about being a plastic surgeon who specializes in facial procedures is the way that all of the individual elements of the face subtly work together to achieve a unified whole. Even the tiniest detail is important, so when making decisions about facial plastic surgery procedures, one has to take into consideration all the different ways each individual element can affect the overall aesthetic balance. One element that can be easily overlooked is the ear, and few realize that its size, shape, and placement can have profound effects on overall facial aesthetics. Over the years I have had the opportunity to help hundreds of men and women of all ages improve the appearance of their ears through otoplasty, a common facial plastic surgery procedure.
The most common reason for ear surgery is to correct the appearance of overly prominent ears in young children. In some cases, the cartilage forming the ears fails to fold properly during fetal development, resulting in an ear that sticks out unnaturally far from the side of the head. Cosmetic ear surgery can often decrease the protrusion of these ears by recreating the missing cartilage folds, effectively bringing the ear closer to the head and giving the ear a more normal appearance. I have personally published an article describing my own cartilage sparing otoplasty technique1, and have found that these procedures are generally best carried out on children between the ages of five and seven years, when the ear is nearly of adult size and the cartilage is of adequate thickness to hold sutures.
However, cosmetic ear surgery can also benefit patients who are far older. Ears, like any other facial feature, tend to sag and droop with age, as the gradual slowing of collagen production in the skin causes the skin to lose elasticity. Moreover, studies have suggested that all ears naturally elongate by as much as 0.22 millimeters per year, a fact that has even been used by forensic scientists to determine a person’s approximate age. In some cases, I have found that subtle ear surgery to give the ear a more youthful appearance can complement more traditional facial rejuvenation procedures, like a mini-facelift, neck lift, or injectable cosmetic treatments, and better bring the newly lifted facial features into a more natural looking balance.
Every face is unique, and every detail makes a difference, so a full and careful examination will be necessary before we can determine what approach is right for you. Together we can view possible results through computer simulations so that you will know exactly what to expect. If you have any questions about ear surgery, or are interested in discussing any of the various cosmetic or reconstructive facial plastic surgery procedures that I perform, please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, to schedule a full consultation. Don’t forget to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.
- Burstein, FD.: Cartilage-Sparing Complete Otoplasty Technique: A Ten Year Experience with 100 Patients. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. 2003 Jul;14(4):521-5.