Everything You Should Know About Ear Surgery

Regardless of your age, teasing hurts. And if you have a facial feature that stands out, it can become fodder for others to ridicule. Ears are notorious for drawing taunts from school children, but it doesn’t end when you grow up. Ears that stick out can make you stick out, and even adults can feel self-conscious about them.

At Frederick H. Watkins, MD, in Rockville, Maryland, and McLean, Virginia, we have the solution that can take the attention off your ears and let you be you — otoplasty. Otherwise known as ear surgery, this routine procedure can solve whatever bothers you about your ears, whether they’re too prominent, misshapen, cupped, or folded, Dr. Watkins can help.

As a board-certified cosmetic plastic surgeon with many years of experience, he can guide you through your options, inform you about what to expect, and perform your surgery skillfully and artistically to bring balance and symmetry to your facial features. Here’s what you need to know.

What causes prominent and deformed ears?

The two main causes of abnormal ears are genetics and injury. Here’s a closer look at these issues:


Misshapen, folded, cupped, prominent, and odd-sized ears are often the result of genetic conditions that affect the cartilage growth in the pinna (outer ear). Within the first few weeks of life, infants born with misshapen ears have a high chance of early correction if they wear a splint to coax the cartilage into the proper shape and position.


Injury can also cause ear deformities. A blow to the head, lacerations, and animal bites are just a few of the potential ear injuries Dr. Watkins sees. Furthermore, athletes in certain sports, including boxing and wrestling, have a high risk of developing ear deformities, whether by way of acute injury or repetitive pressure and pounding. 

What constitutes prominent ears?

The definition of a “normal” ear size and shape is open to interpretation, so the best measure is your own comfort and self-esteem. If you don’t suffer any negative stress over your ears, then there’s no reason to undergo surgery. While the pinna plays a minor role in the process of hearing, most minor deformities don’t make a noticeable difference.

Medical professionals typically define prominent ears as those that protrude more than 2 centimeters (about three-fourths of an inch) from the head. Too much cartilage in the concha — the bowl-shaped part of your ear — can make your ears stick out.

Just as splinting can help reshape an infant’s ears, taping can retrain prominent ears detected at birth. However, about 30% of kids who were born with “normal-looking” ears develop prominent ears as they age. 

What does otoplasty involve?

Dr. Watkins understands that otoplasty is a big decision, and he encourages you to do your own research and get a second (or third) opinion. Choosing the right plastic surgeon is an important first step in the process, which is why he welcomes all your questions and spends considerable time getting to know you and your aesthetic goals as well as your medical history and current health.

If you decide on Dr. Watkins to perform your otoplasty, he explains the procedure in detail. Of course, every surgery is as unique as each patient, but there are a few constants you can rely on:

While you can expect some soreness the first few days after your surgery, most patients don’t report significant pain. Bruising may last up to two weeks. Your time spent in surgery and the specifics of your recovery depend on the exact procedure performed. Dr. Watkins schedules follow-up appointments to check the healing process and make sure your dressing is clean and well-positioned.

To learn more about otoplasty and whether you’re a good candidate, book an appointment online or over the phone with the practice of Frederick H. Watkins, MD, today.

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