Dumbo? Radar? Ring a Bell? Why Otoplasty is a Great Option for Anyone Who’s Tired of the Taunting
Childhood teasing leaves a lasting impression. Taunting from the schoolyard can echo in someone's mind well into adulthood. Remembering my own childhood, kids will find just about ANYTHING to tease someone about. I mean anything. You might not think that the last name Cunningham would lend itself to teasing, but oh, how it did!
So if your nose is slightly bigger, you have a noticeable and what you consider to be an unsightly birthmark, or your ears happen to stick out a bit more than everyone else's, there's a good chance that you recall some name-calling. Ah… the joys of childhood.
Thank goodness for aesthetic plastic surgery! Either during childhood or once we hit adulthood, we can elect to alleviate these old pain points. As it relates to those slightly bigger ears, otoplasty (ear surgery) presents a pretty simple and permanent fix. Curious to learn more about this seemingly simple solution to what could become life-long self-consciousness, I spoke with board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Adam Rubinstein based in Miami, Florida.
Mary: Who is the average patient for ear surgery?
Dr. Rubinstein: There are two populations who seek this procedure, 1) kids in school, which is usually around elementary age (8 or 9). They have prominent ears, and are getting teased.
I think it's very important that kids understand that it's a surgery and what it will entail. Sometimes the parents want to have it done, but the child isn't actually bothered by their ears.
The second group is older. They likely didn't have the means to get the surgery when they were kids, or their parents didn’t feel it was appropriate. They may be young professionals, who can now afford the surgery, in their 20s-30s. Some patients decide to wait even longer to undergo ear surgery and only get it performed in their 50s.
Mary: Since larger ears doesn't present a problem with hearing, those who choose to get this aesthetic procedure later in life must still have some sensitivities around the look of their ears. What are the major concerns that they come to you with?
Dr. Rubinstein: Yes, typically my otoplasty patients come to me with aesthetic concerns. They don't like how their ears look, and are likely still getting teased well into adulthood. As a result, they are very self-conscious. For example, girls won't put hair their up and guys tend to grow their hair longer to try and cover up their ears as much as possible.
The teasing continues to burden them socially and affects their self-esteem long term. From what I've seen, they carry these emotions with them for a long time.
Mary: Are there typically any complications from otoplasty surgery? What are the most common or most significant?
Dr. Rubinstein: There is always the potential for complications. As with any operation, there is a risk of infection. It's rare, but can happen.
What we worry about the most is bleeding (hematoma). This doesn't' happen a lot, but we put a compressive dressing in the area to decrease the risk. Wound-healing can also carry some risk if the sutures that are holding the ear back break.
Mary: How long does the wound usually take to heal?
Dr. Rubinstein: Two weeks, but the swelling may not come back down to normal for 2-3 months.
Mary: Are patients usually pleased with the result?
Dr. Rubinstein: Oh Yes! It changes their self-view. They are more confident, and more comfortable with their appearance.
Mary: Since cartilage never stops growing, if someone has ear surgery as a child, is there a chance that they will have to have a follow-up surgery later in life?
Dr. Rubinstein: There is some risk for reoccurrence, but it's not that common. Most people will not have that problem. Once the ear is settled it stays that way for life, in almost all cases. If recurrence does happen, it tends to occur within the first year.
Mary: Based on your experiences, do you have any guidance for anyone considering this procedure for themselves or for their children?
Dr. Rubinstein: If this is something that bothers you or your child, and is really affecting your self-esteem, it's better to have the procedure done at a younger age than to have to deal with these sensitivities throughout life.
While there is still no cure for cruel schoolyard taunts, perhaps the scars of childhood can be alleviated slightly with help from procedures like otoplasty. Make sure to always consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon when considering any type of surgery, for you or your child.