Prominent Ears, Children & Self-Esteem

Surgical Arts Centre
Dr. John Holtzen
1201 Westwood Drive, Suite A
Hamilton, MT 59840
(406) 549-6600


Prominent Ears, Children & Self-Esteem
A few months ago, a six-year-old Utah boy was in the news for having a relatively common and minor surgery: otoplasty. Why was this procedure so notable and newsworthy? It was because the boy was receiving the cosmetic operation pro bono and because he was having the surgery to stop relentless bullying at school.

According to ABC News, Gage Berger has had protruding ears since birth - and the teasing started as soon as he entered school. His parents say that his protruding ears were making it very difficult for their son to enjoy school, make friends, or gain any sort of confidence. They researched otoplasty (cosmetic ear surgery) as a potential solution and found that it perfectly fit their son's needs. They ran the idea past Gage, who was thrilled with the prospect of having normal-looking ears.

The boy had the two-hour surgery accompanied by his stuffed tiger. His parents reported that he is already having a better experience at school and that his confidence is higher than ever before.

Otoplasty and cosmetic surgery for children

Cosmetic surgery is not often recommended for children as young as Gage Berger. However, certain types of plastic surgeries, including ear surgery, nose surgery, breast reduction surgery, and acne scar reduction surgery, are often cited as acceptable and helpful for those under 18 by a many doctors, surgeons, and national medical organizations, depending on the details of each individual case. These procedures correct issues that harm children's self-esteem, make them stand out in a crowd, and lower their overall quality of life. Getting these cosmetic surgeries, many say, is more like getting braces or cleft palate surgery and less like getting a facelift or breast augmentation.

Otoplasty is a perfect example of a sensible cosmetic procedure for many children for the following reasons:

bulletThe surgery easily fixes deformed ears that can lead to teasing and self-esteem issues even at an early age.

bulletThe operation is short, relatively safe, and has a relatively fast recovery period.

bulletThe ears are mostly finished growing by age 5, making the results viable over the long term.

bulletStudies have confirmed that otoplasty in children has overwhelmingly positive outcome for children which lasts into adulthood.

The procedure

Otoplasty is a surgical procedure in which the ears are reshaped so that they are symmetrical and lay flush against the head. The surgery is designed to correct for overly protruding or malformed ears.

The procedure, which can take place in a surgeon's office, an outpatient surgical facility, or a hospital, takes about two hours to complete. The facility and type of anesthetic used for each patient is determined doctor and individualized to the patient's needs. The recovery process involves wearing an earband for one to three days, followed by a week or two of further healing. All swelling should disappear by three months, and most scarring will remain hidden behind the ear. Children often undergo otoplasty during a time off from school such as summer vacation.

The surgery is recommended for anyone over the age of five years who wishes to have less prominent ears. The surgery is not often covered by insurance plans, although some health care policies cover the repair of an abnormal body part. You should speak with your doctor and your insurance company about cost, payment, insurance coverage, and financing.

Before deciding on the surgery, doctors recommend that your child is evaluated and briefed. Children should understand the consequences of the procedure, have realistic expectations regarding results, and understand that the outcome is more or less permanent.

Studies regarding ear surgery and children

A 2012 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology followed up with 36 people of all ages who underwent otoplasty between 2009 and 2010. Researchers found that the vast majority were pleased with the results of their cosmetic surgery and that their quality of life had improved after the procedure. This satisfaction was equally apparent in patients of all ages and both sexes.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery surveyed people who had an otoplasty procedure between the ages of 5 and 16 and between the years 1999 and 2003. The study found that 97 percent of respondents reported an increase in happiness, 92 percent reported an increase in self-confidence, 79 percent noted improved social experience, and all reported that bullying was reduced or eliminated.

A 2007 study published in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery examined the postoperative satisfaction of teens who underwent a cosmetic surgical procedure, including otoplasty.

They found that 94 percent of people who had a plastic surgery procedure as teens were still satisfied with the results and that the group was not more likely than other teens to undergo a second cosmetic procedure.

Otoplasty at the Surgical Arts Centre

Could otoplasty be a solution for your protruding ears or your child's protruding ears? At the Surgical Arts Centre, we are happy to discuss whether you or your child is a good candidate for this procedure based on the patient's medical history, their maturity, and their reasons for requesting the surgery. Talk with our team if you have a question about otoplasty, if you want to learn more about our ear surgeries, or if you would like to schedule a consultation.

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact Dr. John Holtzen at the Surgical Arts Centre, 1201 Westwood Drive, Suite A, Hamilton, MT 59840 or 805 S. Reserve Street, Missoula, MT 59801. Working together to build a healthier community!
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