Otoplasty - what it is, how much it costs, and how ear surgery works
Otoplasty is a common ear surgery that can help adjust the shape, size and positioning of your ears. It's popular choice for both children and adults with macrotia, the medical term for big ears. But how does otoplasty work and what are the costs involved?
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In this article:
Duration of results
Back to work
Full recovery time
9,000 AED to 18,000 AED
General or local anaesthetic
What is otoplasty?
Otoplasty, or cosmetic ear surgery, is a procedure used to reshape part of your outer ear, known as the auricle. It doesn’t alter your hearing or the location of your ears, but it can help adjust their size and symmetry.
There are three main types:
- Ear augmentation – increases the size of the ear and is generally used for children or adults with smaller ears that have not developed to their full potential.
- Ear pinning – this type of otoplasty pins ears back closer to the side of the head.
- Ear reduction – the average ear length is 58 to 62mm in women and 62 to 66mm in men. An ear reduction will reduce the size.
If you or your child are finding the shape or size of your ears are affecting your confidence or body image, talk to your doctor or clinician. They’ll be able to offer you helpful advice and guidance around the various options and find a solution.
How does ear surgery work?
Before the surgery
The non-negotiable advice is to find a surgeon that is board-certified, experienced and able to show you real results. But it’s also a good idea to choose someone understanding, who manages your expectations of results in an appropriate manner.
Once you’ve chosen your surgeon, an initial consultation will ensure you understand how the surgery works and how to prepare for it. This might include avoiding certain medication and stopping smoking.
During the procedure
Ear surgery is usually performed in a hospital and takes around two hours. For younger children, general anaesthesia is typically used, but for adults, a local anaesthetic is also an option.
The two most common techniques are:
- Ear correction surgery – a traditional otoplasty that involves a small cut behind the ear to expose the ear cartilage. Your surgeon will either remove, fold and shape, or graft pieces of cartilage, then stitch the ear into the desired position.
- Incisionless otoplasty – this newer technique uses stitches to alter the shape of your cartilage, meaning the recovery time tends to be faster.
Once the surgery is complete, you usually go home the same day.
Your ears will be dressed in a bandage to keep them supported for the next few days. If you experience any pain or discomfort, medication may be prescribed.
Once the bandages are removed, you may notice swelling or redness. Try to avoid touching, scratching or sleeping on your ears for a smooth recovery.
Depending on the stitches used, you may also need to return to the clinic so they can be removed.
Otoplasty cost, side-effects and alternatives
How much does otoplasty cost?
The cost of otoplasty surgery varies depending on:
- Additional expenses – blood tests, medication, etc.
- Type of otoplasty.
- Whether you are having surgery on one or both ears.
The average cost in the UAE ranges from approximately Dhs9,000 for single-ear correction to between 15,000 and Dhs18,000 for a full otoplasty.
Does otoplasty hurt?
A local or general anaesthesia takes care of any pain while the surgery takes place. You may feel some slight discomfort afterwards, but your doctor should be able to prescribe you some pain relief.
What are the side effects of otoplasty surgery?
There are potential side-effects of ear surgery, including:
- Tender ears.
- Scarring – this is usually hidden behind the ears or inside the ears.
- Numbness or tingling.
Is it safe?
Otoplasties are safe if they are performed by a board-certified professional with proven experience. But there are associated risks to bear in mind, such as:
- Asymmetry – either from the surgery itself or the healing process. A second surgery may be required to resolve this issue.
- Overcorrection – unnatural ridges or contours in the ear. This is quite rare but will also require a second operation.
- Temporary change to your skin sensation.
- Excessive bleeding – a very rare side-effect.
- Infection – usually fixed by prescribed antibiotics.
How effective is it?
Otoplasty is a highly effective method for reshaping or resizing your ears. Results are permanent no matter your age.
What are the alternatives?
Non-surgical ear pinning, such as ear splinting, could be an option – but this is best for newborn babies up to six months.
- Ear surgery was originally developed in ancient India in 600 BC by the Ayurvedic physician Sushruta – the ‘Father of Plastic Surgery’.
- The first aesthetic otoplasty for prominent ears was performed in 1851 by Edward Talbot Ely in New York.
- The word otoplasty derives from the Greek words for ‘ear’ and ‘to shape’.
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