Prominent ears, also known as bat ears, can cause embarrassment and unhappiness and can be the cause of bullying. Correction of prominent ears is a relatively straightforward procedure that can be done as a day case. The operation takes about an hour and it can be done under local anaesthetic (you stay awake) or general anaesthetic (you go to sleep).
The operation involves making an incision in the fold behind the ear which will leave a scar between the ear and the scalp. The cartilage of the ear is then remoulded to improve the contour and set the ear back.
Following surgery, you will have a head bandage, which will stay on for 7-10 days. The head bandage is removed in the dressing clinic and then a head band at night is all that is needed. The results of the surgery are immediately obvious but the ears will be bruised and swollen for some time and it will be several months before the final result will be apparent.
What is the Ideal Age for Prominent Ear Correction?
Prominent ears can be a major source of anxiety and can be used as a source of ridicule. A subtle change in the shape of the ears can produce dramatic results, both from a psychological point of view and physically. It is common for parents to be concerned about their children's ears many years before the child notices anything, however it is not wise to perform surgery without having the support of your child. Many parents request to have the surgery performed before their child goes to school, but if your child is too young and doesn't understand why they are having surgery, then they will not tolerate the head bandage or the dressings and may well compromise the final result.
It is far better to wait until your child is able to understand what they are having done and actually requests that something be done about their ears. Many people go through to adulthood with prominent ears and are quite happy with their appearance, so it is important to have the backing of your child before having anything done. It is for this reason that I prefer to wait until the child is at least 6 years old and is requesting to have something done, before considering surgery. However, the younger the child, the more likely that a general anaesthetic will be needed and so if they are able to wait until they are older, then there is a possibility that they may be able to have their ears corrected under local anaesthesia.
There are many adults who come requesting prominent ear correction and it may be one or both ears. The procedure is the same, but it is often possible to perfom the surgery under local anaesthetic in adults, as long as you are prepared to be on the operating table for about an hour.
Are There Any Alternatives to Surgery?
It seems appealing to try to 'tape' the ears back or hold them back in some way, but this does not really work after about the first month of life. Splinting the ears can work, but it is essential that it is started early in life while the cartilage of the ear is still soft. This means that it should really be started as close to birth as possible, as the sooner you start, the less time you will need your child to wear the splint. After your child is one month old, the results are less effective and you will need your child to wear the splint for longer. There are reports of older children and even adults, using splints to correct prominent ears but the splints have to be worn for a long periods, such as many months and even years, and this is not something that is really practised in this country.