I’m all ears: what is otoplasty?

Otoplasty – also known as ear surgery – is an operation involving the repair or improvement of the appearance and shape of the ears.

There are several reasons why people would opt for otoplasty (we go into these below) and it is even a common procedure amongst young children and teenagers.

Ears reach their full size by around age four to six, but many people think they keep growing, especially as you enter old age. What actually happens, though, is that as you age, your ears lose elasticity and appear longer. This gives the appearance of larger ears, when in fact the size has not changed.

Ears that stick out

Otoplasty, believe it or not, is actually most common amongst children, typically between the ages of four and 14.

This type of surgery is just one reason why there is no blanket ban across plastic surgery for children. Teenagers, and even those as young as four, can undergo otoplasty for physical or psychological reasons.

…four years old?


As mentioned above, and according to the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, ears are practically fully grown by age four.

Reactive surgery at such an early age can help reduce the chance that a child will be teased or bullied, thus protecting their self-esteem.

Now of course, most teenagers and kids aren’t out there getting a variety of plastic surgery procedures, but otoplasty is one of the most common ones for children.

Otoplasty for adults

Even though it is most common amongst younger people, otoplasty is not out of limits for adults.

There are generally no added risks for ear surgery undertaken beyond the teenage years, and it is an adult’s prerogative whether they opt for otoplasty at an older age.

Cauliflower ear

Funny name, but once you see a picture of it, you’ll understand!

Otoplasty for cauliflower ear

Typical of athletes in contact sports like rugby, wrestling, and boxing, cauliflower ear is the result of constant trauma of the ear.

The repetitive injury impedes blood flow and causes hematomas that result in a lumpy appearance, just like that of cauliflower! (UFC fighter Randy Couture is famous for his cauliflower ears: “These ears attract a crowd,” he says.)

But you don’t need to be 250 pounds of muscle to suffer from cauliflower ears. An infected cartilage piercing can even cause cauliflower ear. Luckily, ear surgery is a viable and realistic solution.

Large conchal bowl

Another odd name, but this part of the ear (shown below) is the concave “bowl” of your ear. The larger the conchal bowl, the further out it pushes the ear, thus making the ear stick out.

Otoplasty scarring

Like almost any other procedure, a major area of concern for patients is resulting scarring.

The good news is that scarring from otoplasty surgery is normally quite minimal, as incisions are made along the crease where the ear meets the scalp. Your ear itself (as well as your hair) will typically disguise any scarring.

Ear surgery recovery

Even more good news is that ear surgery recovery is typically quite minimal. Immediately after surgery, you will likely experience some swelling and bruising, but in just a few weeks, the only thing you will notice are your amazing results!

Immediately after surgery, compression bandages are wrapped around the head, and the wound is protected.

These bandages should remain for a few days (and possibly up to a week), then for the next few weeks, you will likely need to wear a headband-type band. You should wear this at minimum each night, but you might be advised to try to wear it at any time of the day it is appropriate to do so.

If you have any sharp pains or excessive swelling, let us know – and we will check to make sure this is not the beginning of hematoma (clotted blood within the tissues).

Ear surgery recovery is quite simple, and your surgeon will provide you with a detailed recovery plan including any pain medication, how to keep the area clean, and more.

Organise your otoplasty consultation

Has otoplasty been on your mind recently? Does your child have ears that stick out?

Start here

Read our detailed procedure information on ear surgery here.

If you’d like a chat with one of our nurses, you can organise a FREE consultation online. Contact Cairns Plastic Surgery today.