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Big ears – concerns, causes and possible treatments

Big ears are no bad thing. They don’t cause health issues, although they may be a source of self-consciousness. If they stick out, have long lobes that make wearing earrings a challenge or you just feel they’re too large, there are options.

So, what can you do if you’re unhappy with big ears and want to know what you can do about them?

What are considered big ears?

Deciding whether you have big ears is purely subjective. And proportion counts too. What seem like big ears on one person might seem fine on another, depending on the size and shape of their head and other facial features.

Men generally have larger ears than women. The average ear size for most people is:

  • Adult male – 63mm long
  • Adult female – 59mm
  • 10 years old – 59mm
  • Five years old – 55mm
  • Six months old – 48mm

Protruding ears – also referred to as big ears – are generally those that stick out more than 20mm.

What causes big ears?


People with big ears can pass down the genes that define the shape, size, and prominence of their ears to their children, but it isn’t always the case.


Both men’s and women’s ears keep growing as they age. Over 50 years they can grow by up to a centimetre in length.

There are a few reasons you might notice your ears getting bigger as you grow older:

  • Ears sag with age – the same can happen to our noses, because of gravity and a loss of skin elasticity.
  • Ear lobes droop – gravity plays its part again here and wearing heavy earrings can speed up the process.
  • Hair thins – this makes your ears appear bigger as they show more as you age.

Other possible reasons for big ears

Some health conditions can lead to increased cartilage growth, which could lead to big ears developing. Such conditions include:

  • Macrotia – a medical term for overly large ears that is usually associated with several medical conditions.
  • Barber-Say syndrome – an incredibly rare genetic disorder.
  • Growth disturbances of the auricle.

How you might treat big ears

Ear moulding / splinting

When big ears are noticed at a young age, they can be treated without surgery. Moulds or splints taped to a baby’s ears can reshape them over around six to eight weeks.

This is normally only an option for babies up to the age of three months old. Ear cartilage is soft and pliable at birth and can be reshaped more effectively and easily before it becomes rigid.

Incisionless surgery

An incisionless otoplasty is a type of cosmetic surgery for correcting protruding ears. Surgeons alter the ear cartilage using stitches to pin back the ears.

This treatment can only achieve mild adjustments and is considered best for children and teenagers, as well as those with only slightly protruding ears. But in some cases, this is all that’s needed. The procedure is less invasive than otoplasty and can deliver permanent results.

After the procedure, a wrap will normally be applied. Within a week to 10 days, most people make a full recovery, with more discreet ears.


Cosmetic ear surgery – or otoplasty – is a procedure that changes the shape, size, or position of ears. It’s the most common treatment for big ears, as anyone over the age of five can have it.

Unlike incisionless surgery, this is a bit more invasive:

  • A small cut is made behind your big ear or within the inner creases to expose the cartilage.
  • Bits of cartilage and skin are removed, if necessary.
  • Cartilage is then folded into the correct position and stitched up.
  • The back of the ear and any other incisions are stitched to secure the right position of your ear.

It can take an hour or two and once it’s done, you’ll need a bandage to protect and support your ears. These can be removed a few days later, with instantly noticeable results.

Big ears facts

  • In Chinese culture, big ears are viewed as a sign of good fortune. Those with big ears or thick, large ear lobes are thought more likely to have happy childhoods and grow into successful adults.
  • Protruding ears are most common in white people. Around five per cent of the world’s white population has the condition.


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