Ear pinning surgery, also known as an ear correction, otoplasty or pinnaplasty, is a procedure that alters the size, shape or position of the ears. The ears are a prominent feature of the face and so changing how they look or how much they stand out can have a large effect on appearance as well as confidence. Pinnaplasty is a commonly performed surgery on both adults and children and can help those unhappy with the look of their ears.
60 to 120 mins
0 - 1 night
Usually local, but sometimes general is used
3 - 6 months
What can an ear pinning achieve?
Ear pinning surgery is often performed on both children and adults. The aim of an ear pinning procedure is to achieve a proportionate and symmetrical ear shape and size. The surgery involves realigning the “pinna” of the ear so that it is in a position that is more balanced with the rest of the face.
Protruding or disproportionate ears can be a great source of self-consciousness for many people. It can affect the way that they choose to wear their hair, their lifestyle choices and even their career choices. This procedure can greatly improve the appearance of the whole face. It can help boost self-esteem, therefore reducing the psychological harm that many people may experience.
Ear pinning surgery typically costs between £3,000 and £4,000. There is no fixed price for ear pinning surgery because each procedure is slightly different. During a consultation with a surgeon, a patient has the opportunity to share what they hope to achieve from an ear pinning procedure meanwhile a surgeon may use their expertise to make recommendations that they see as important to an individual patient’s situation. These details may incur slightly higher or slightly lower costs, they include:
- Surgeon experience
- Anaesthetist experience
- Additional combined procedures
- Surgical techniques
- The time required in surgery for each patient’s case
- The complexity of the individual procedure
Only after the consultation will a final price be offered. Patients can rest easy knowing that there are no additional costs or hidden fees because once that offer is made it will include:
- Hospital costs
- Surgeon and anaesthetist costs
- Overnight stays (if required)
- Aftercare and follow-up appointments
Why have ear pinning surgery?
The ears are a prominent feature of the face and can have a major effect on its aesthetic. Many people find that they are unhappy with the shape, size or position of their ears. This can therefore cause them to feel self-conscious about their appearance. The ideal ear pinning candidates can therefore include those who have:
- Prominent or protruding ears
- Asymmetrical ears
- An ear size that is disproportionate to the head size
- Reduced self-esteem due to ear shape or size
- Unsatisfying results from a previous ear pinning
Who is suitable for ear pinning surgery?
All ear pinning candidates should be:
- Over the age of 5 (varies from surgeon to surgeon)
- Physically healthy
- Emotionally prepared for surgery
- Unhappy with the aesthetic of their ears
- Non-smokers, or have stopped smoking and using all nicotine products for a minimum of 6 weeks before surgery
- Have no active or ongoing ear infections
Can children have ear pinning surgery?
Prominent ears can be a facial feature that runs in families. Although they do not cause any hearing difficulties, they can be a source of bullying for children. It is therefore quite common for children to have an ear pinning.
Children that are ideal ear pinning candidates include those who are over the age of 6 years old. Children younger than 6 may not be good candidates as their ears have not yet fully matured. Most surgeons also find it important that a child having an ear pinning is able to express their unhappiness with their appearance, and personally wish to have the position or shape of their ears corrected.
There are no differences in the surgical techniques used for children and adults, although children are more likely to have the procedure done under a general anaesthetic.
It is important that patients and patient's parents communicate expectations effectively with the surgeon so that they are better able to help patients achieve their desired outcome. Choosing a highly experienced BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will mean patients are in the best hands for otoplasty surgery.
How is an ear pinning procedure performed?
An ear pinning procedure, or otoplasty, often lasts between 60 to 120 minutes. It may be done as a day procedure, or patients may have to stay in the hospital for one night. Before patients go in for pinnaplasty surgery, patients must follow the instructions the surgeon has given for eating, drinking and taking medications the night before surgery.
An ear pinning procedure involves the following steps:
On the day of surgery, patients will meet with the surgeon and anaesthetist to sign a consent form for the procedure. Patients may have signed the consent form in the pre-operative appointment a week before. After signing the form, the surgeon will draw lines around the ears and discuss the exact goals of the procedure.
Ear pinning surgery can be performed using general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with or without IV (intravenous) sedation. The patient and the surgeon will discuss which type of anaesthetic is most suitable prior to otoplasty surgery. Children often have the procedure done under a general anaesthetic.
The surgeon will make the incision behind the ear, where the ear meets the head. This incision will expose the cartilage so that the surgeon is able to reshape it. Placing the incision in this area means that the scars are generally very well hidden.
The firm, but bendy part of the ear is the cartilage of the ear, and it is this part that the surgeon will reshape and resize during the procedure. Once the surgeon exposes the cartilage beneath the skin, they will reshape the ears and remove any excess skin or cartilage. The technique they choose to use depends on the goals specific to your ear pinning procedure. After the surgeon reshapes the cartilage, they will secure it into its new position with permanent sutures. These sutures prevent the ears from protruding outwards again.
Closing of incisions
The surgeon will close the incisions using external stitches. They will then wrap a tight bandage around the head. This helps stabilise the ears in their new position. The surgeon will strategically place the incisions behind the natural skin creases, or along the hairline so that they are not visible.
Return to the ward
Patients are then taken back to the ward so that they may recover from the anaesthetic. Once it is safe, patients will be able to return home. Usually, they can go home on the same day of surgery. Although they will be able to see changes instantly after surgery, it can take around 3 to 6 months to appreciate the full results of pinnaplasty surgery.
What is ear fold surgery?
Ear fold surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can correct prominent ears. This procedure involves making a small incision in the ear, then inserting an implant or ‘clip’ to pin back the ears. The implant folds the cartilage back into a less protruding position. Although it is a far less invasive treatment than a traditional otoplasty, it carries a greater risk of re-protrusion.
Although it is a suitable alternative to an otoplasty for both adults and children with prominent ears, it cannot change the size or shape of the ears. It can only change the position.
What is earlobe repair surgery?
Earlobe repair surgery is different from an otoplasty and is a procedure that repairs stretched or split earlobes. Earlobes can split due to accidental tearing whilst wearing earrings, or over-stretching from wearing tunnel earrings. It is a simple procedure that can be done using a local anaesthetic. Patients will be able to see the final results around 4 to 6 months postoperatively and can be re-pierced after 6 months.
Some surgeons offer the “split earlobe repair with rotation flap” technique which can repair split earlobes and allow patients to wear earrings 2 weeks after surgery.
It is important for patients to choose a BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon to perform any of the above procedures. This will ensure they are in the safest hands during surgery. Even if it is only one ear that is concerning the patient, the surgeon will perform the procedure on both ears so that they are symmetrical.
What to expect during an ear pinning consultation?
The ear pinning consultation will often last be 15 minutes to 1 hour long. During this consultation, the surgeon will discuss all aspects of the ear pinning surgery. They will cover past and current medical history, which will include the following:
- Current health status
- Current or pre-existing medical conditions
- Current use of medications, herbal remedies, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- Drug allergies
- Previous surgical history
The surgeon will also discuss various aspects of the procedure. In order to make sure patients are fully informed, they will cover the following topics:
- Reasons for wanting ear pinning surgery
- Expectations of the procedure and desired outcome
- Which surgical approach is the most suitable
- What the ear pinning procedure will involve
- The risks and complications of the procedure
After they cover these topics, the surgeon will then take photos of the ears for the medical record. It is important for patients to be honest and candid with the surgeon about what they would like to achieve from the otoplasty procedure.
Questions to ask during the pinnaplasty consultation
It may be useful to ask the following questions during the ear pinning consultation:
- Are these expectations realistic?
- Where will the scars be located?
- Request to see before and after photos
The consultation time is the perfect opportunity to ask the surgeon many questions. BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeons want to help patients achieve the best results possible from the ear pinning surgery and therefore encourage patients to be as honest as possible.
Risks & Complications
All surgeries come with potential risks. It is important to be aware of the ear pinning risks and complications before having the pinnaplasty procedure. These can include the following:
Scarring after an ear pinning procedure is unavoidable. This is because the surgeon must make surgical incisions to perform the surgery. The scars, however, tend to be minimal and barely visible. They are strategically placed within the natural skin creases or along the hairline to make them less visible.
The extent of the scarring depends on your skin’s ability to heal. Some patients are more prone to severe types of scarring such as keloid or hypertrophic scars. Patients are usually already aware of if they are susceptible to developing these types of scars.
In some cases, an ear pinning surgery may not be successful in pinning the ears back adequately. This may lead to the ears re-protruding. This can, however, be corrected with revision surgery.
Asymmetry is a normal feature of all human faces. An ear pinning procedure aims to reposition the ears so that they are as proportionate and symmetrical to the rest of the face as possible. The healing process, however, may result in slight discrepancies in symmetry.
When the surgeon adjusts the cartilage in the ear to a different position, the ears can become less flexible and stiff. If the ears do become stiff, this is usually temporary but it may take several months before they regain their flexibility.
There is always a risk that patients may be unhappy with the final result of ear pinning surgery. It's therefore advised patients choose their surgeon carefully, making sure they understand the expectations and are a highly-experienced member of either BAAPS or BAPRAS.
Altered skin sensation
The surgical incisions that the surgeon makes may damage the nerves in the area that they operate on. This nerve damage can result in numbness or altered sensations (such as pins and needles) developing in or around the ears. In most cases, the numbness will reduce over time, but this can take several months. In some rare cases, the numbness or altered sensation may persist and become permanent.
Bleeding & bruising
Minor bleeding and bruising are common after an ear pinning procedure. In some cases, a blood clot called a “haematoma”, may also form in the skin of the ear. This will often disperse naturally, but may sometimes need to be removed with a small needle. It is rare to experience severe bleeding, but if this does occur, it requires immediate medical attention.
After an ear pinning procedure, the permanent stitches that hold the ear in place may rise to the surface of the skin and irritate the skin in that area. This may lead to the affected part of the ear becoming inflamed. Patients may need to have further surgery to correct this.
Every surgery carries the risk of infection. These tend to be mild wound infections that can be treated easily with antibiotics. Infections can, however, become more severe if patients do not seek treatment. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of infection. Patients must flag up any of the following symptoms to the surgeon:
- A temperature of 38° C or more
- Foul-smelling pus or discharge from the drains or incision sites
- Redness that is starting to spread away from the incision site
- Increasing pain or discomfort that is not helped by painkillers
Choosing an experienced and highly trained surgeon will minimise the chance of any ear pinning risks and complications occurring.
How to prepare for an ear pinning procedure?
An ear pinning procedure is elective surgery. This means patients will have time to make arrangements to ensure that the recovery goes as smoothly as possible. The following list may help with the ear pinning preparation:
As patients will not be able to do any heavy lifting straight after ear pinning surgery, it may be quite helpful to do food shopping beforehand. It may also be useful to cook some meals and put them in the freezer so that patients do not have to worry about cooking either. It’s good to get chores like cleaning the house, doing the washing and taking the bins out before going for the otoplasty operation.
Children & pets
Patients will most likely need to arrange for family and friends to help look after young children and pets for the first few days of their recovery.
As patients will need to wear a headband for 5 to 7 days after surgery, they will not be able to wear glasses. It may therefore be useful to buy prescription contact lenses before having pinnaplasty surgery.
As patients will have to wear a headband for the first 5 to 7 days after surgery, patients should try to wear clothes that fasten from the front or back. This will be more comfortable as it prevents pulling clothes over the head and displacing the bandage.
After the ear pinning procedure, patients will not be able to drive. Patients must therefore arrange for a family member or friend to take them home. In general, patients may not be able to drive for 5 days to 2 weeks after surgery. This does, however, depend on the surgeon’s specific instructions.
To aid recovery after surgery, patients are advised to eat foods that are high in protein and low in salt. Try to have as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Patients should also aim to stay hydrated with caffeine-free drinks and lots of water.
Get plenty of extra pillows for the bed. Sleeping propped up after surgery may be more comfortable. Resting and sleeping on the back, in an inclined position, may help reduce bruising and swelling after the ear pinning operation.
It is important to be aware that drinking large amounts of alcohol, having a high BMI, smoking, and using homoeopathic or recreational drugs are all factors that may increase the risk of complications occurring. Smoking in particular increases the risk of infections and may delay wound healing. As surgeons always want to reduce this risk as much as possible, they strongly advise the following:
- Stop smoking and using all nicotine products for a minimum of 6 weeks before and after surgery.
- Stop taking all homoeopathic medications at least 2 weeks prior to surgery. This includes Aspirin, St John’s Wort, multivitamin preparations and any medications that include: ginger, ginkgo, garlic and cod liver oil.
What to expect after an ear pinning surgery?
After the surgery, the surgeon will give specific instructions for the ear pinning aftercare. Patients will usually be able to return home the same day as the ear pinning but may need to spend a night in the hospital for monitoring.
Swelling & bruising
It will be likely that patients will experience pain, swelling and bruising around their ears and head after your procedure. This can take 1 to 2 weeks to settle, but patients can use simple pain relief such as paracetamol to ease the pain. Patients should also try to keep their head elevated, sleep with the head propped up by pillows, and avoid bending over. These techniques can help reduce post-operative swelling.
The surgeon will schedule a post-operative appointment to attend after the pinnaplasty surgery. This will usually be made within 1 to 2 weeks after the ear pinning. During this appointment, the surgeon will:
- Examine the surgical area
- Remove any non-dissolvable sutures
- Replace any dressings
- Address any complications
- Discuss the next steps in care.
If patients were given a general anaesthetic, it may affect memory and concentration after surgery. This will, however, only last 1 to 2 days. If patients were given a local anaesthetic, they may feel some altered sensations around the ears, but this will eventually wear off.
Due to the effect of the anaesthetic, it is important for patients to arrange for a responsible adult to stay with them for the first 24 hours after surgery.
Showering & bathing
Patients should be able to shower and bathe from the neck downwards after the pinnaplasty surgery. It is, however, very important to prevent the headband or the ears from getting wet for at least 1 week. The surgeon will give specific advice regarding showering and bathing.
After having ear pinning surgery, the ears and the permanent sutures holding them in place will be very sensitive and delicate. Patients will need to wear a tight headband, or compression garment, over the ears and head for around 5 to 7 days. The surgeon may also advise patients to continue wearing the headband whilst sleeping, for up to a month after the procedure. This is to help prevent the ears from bending forwards whilst sleeping.
This headband is an important part of the ear pinning aftercare and will help stabilise the position of the ears. It also prevents infection by covering the incision sites. It is very important that patients do not get the headband wet, or remove it until the surgeon advises them to do so.
Time off work
The time patients will need to take off work after having the ear pinning procedure will depend on the type of job they have. If patients have an office job, they should take at least 1 week off work. If the job involves physical activity, they may need to take up to 2 weeks off work.
Return to sports & exercise
The ears will still remain quite sensitive for a number of weeks after the otoplasty procedure. It is therefore essential to follow the surgeon’s advice on when patients can resume sports and exercise. The general guidelines regarding this are as follows:
During the first week, avoid all types of exercise and sports. Even minor aerobic sports at this stage may increase swelling.
Week 2 – 3
Two weeks after the ear pinning surgery, patients may resume light cardio activities such as walking on a treadmill. It's advised that patients begin slowly and do not exert themselves
Week 3 – 4
Three weeks after the surgery, patients can resume more active sports such as cycling but continue to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercises.
Week 4 – 6
After four to six weeks have passed, patients may resume all sports and exercises.
During the ear pinning procedure, the surgeon will make the incisions in the natural skin creases or along the hairline. This allows the scars to be less visible.
To help further reduce the appearance of scars, the surgeon may recommend some of the following techniques:
- Scar massage – gentle massage of the scar area may aid the healing process. Patients should only do this once their incision has fully healed.
- Silicone sheets, creams or gels – products containing silicone have been proven to help reduce the appearance of scars. It's recommended patients only use these products after the incision fully heals.
- Avoid sun exposure – It's advised to avoid sunbathing or using sunbeds. If however, patients do expose the scar to the sun, be sure to use high-factor sun cream. This protects the healing skin and avoids darkening the scar.
Although patients will be able to see a difference in the ears immediately after the ear pinning surgery, it can take around 3 to 6 months to see the full cosmetic results. It is therefore important to be patient. Following the surgeon’s advice on ear pinning aftercare will help yield the best possible results.
The final results should be life-long. There may however be changes to the ear shape that are naturally seen with ageing. If any complications that alter the shape of the ear occur, such as re-protrusion, the surgeon can correct this with further surgery.
Below you can find some of the most common ear pinning FAQs:
Ear Pinning Surgery FAQs
Ear Pinning Surgery Recovery and Postoperative FAQs
Ear Pinning Surgery Risks and Complications FAQs
Find out more about ear pinning surgery
Ear pinning surgery is a procedure popular amongst children and adults alike and can increase confidence and appearance of the ears