With the advent of long hair styles in the 60's and 70's, fewer children with prominent ear deformities were having them surgically corrected. The classic case of the child with a lop ear deformity was generally treated prior to the start of elementary school. The operation, known as an oto-(ear) plasty (re-shaping), generally involves a hidden incision in the back of the ear. The skin is raised off the underlying cartilage, trimmed, reshaped, cut and sutured to maintain its new shape. Excess skin can be trimmed and the wounds closed. A dressing securing the ear in place is then secured for up to one week. The procedure could be done as an out-patient, and depending upon the age of the patient, general anesthesia (for the very young) or intravenous sedation with local anesthesia (for older individuals) would be employed.
Otoplasty is becoming more popular again, particularly with the shortening of hairstyles, and even among women who desire to wear their hair pulled back but are self-conscious about their protruding ears. It has also been described as an operation that can be performed on the new born simply with the proper use of tape to fix the ears into the appropriate position.
This cute little girl didn't like being teased about her "big, funny" ears. An otoplasty was able to restore her ears to a normal position and appearance.
An otoplasty can be performed in adults as well. This is often the case, especially in women who would like to wear their hair back, and men who want to wear shorter hair styles.
Infrequently, children may be born without well developed ears. Their hearing may even be deficient along with the failure of development of the auricle. Major reconstruction of the ear is then required. Generally, this requires the harvesting of rib cartilage which is then shaped and implanted into the area of the auricle. Though there are some masters of this procedure, superior results are difficult to obtain.
On occasion, insurance coverage may still pick up the tab because of the congenital nature and the reconstructive (vs. cosmetic) nature of the operation. Otherwise, the cost for surgery is generally from $3,000 - $4,000.