Since the dawn of the pandemic, Wayne, NJ facial plastic surgeon Jeffrey B. Wise, MD says patients have been putting more emphasis on areas of the face that are visible beyond the mask. “This includes mostly the ears, the eyes and the submental region,” he says, adding that the biggest uptick in demand at his office has been for otoplasty—also known as ear-reshaping surgery. “I think people are noticing how prominent their ears are when donning masks that tie or loop behind the ears. ‘My ears stick out too far’ is the most common complaint that patients turn to me with and, remarkably, the demand for this procedure has nearly tripled in the past year.”
What can this surgery accomplish?
Otoplasty is great as it can pin back ears, reshape or reduce their size and/or make them more symmetrical—all requests with which my patients reach out to me. These days, with the full face no longer being visible, women especially are experimenting more with different hair styles. When their ears are prominent, they tend to shy away from wearing their hair up. Most of my otoplasty patients are looking to have that freedom and confidence, and with a lot of people still working from home, there’s really no better time to get this procedure done than now.
What does the procedure typically involve?
I perform otoplasties in my Joint-Commission Accredited Medical Facility in Wayne, under local anesthesia with sedation. The procedure lasts two-to-three hours and patients can go home the same day. For young children, I generally perform the otoplasty at an ambulatory surgical center on an outpatient basis, under deeper sedation. Depending on the patient’s needs, there are numerous techniques that can be used during an otoplasty procedure, from creating an ear “fold” to reducing the size of a conchal bowl, fixing symmetry issues, and so forth. Ultimately, the goal is to give the patient a set of ears they don’t have to feel the need to hide.
Is it reserved mainly for younger patients (or any other particular demographic)?
From a medical standpoint, ear-correcting surgery is ideally performed at age 5 or 6 because the ear is almost grown to adult size. Peer ridicule can be disruptive to a child’s self-esteem and outlook. Psychosocially, otoplasty performed prior to primary school age has had a tremendously positive impact on self-esteem. Otoplasty is, however, a procedure that any individual who is physically healthy can undergo. In my practice, it’s actually more common nowadays to have adults, teenagers and middle-aged candidates come in for this procedure, but I have had patients of all ages, all the way up until their 70s.
What kind of recovery should someone expect?
The recovery for ear surgery is relatively short. Patients go home the same day of the procedure, with a light dressing around the operated areas that remains until the following day. We recommend an athletic type of bandage to be worn around the ears for the next week, and patients can return to most normal activities about a week post-surgery. Full healing can take up to one year, and patients should continue to wear a bandage around their ears when sleeping for a few weeks, but they will see near-complete results 10 or so days after the surgery. Patients should still be wearing a mask to protect themselves after having surgery. It can be difficult to loop a mask around ears for a few days post-op, but thankfully, we can provide them with a mask that ties around the head and neck, rather than their ears.
Besides surgery, are you seeing a request in other treatments for the ears, such as fillers?
The pandemic has really changed how people view getting cosmetic work done. In the past, recovery and time away from work, school, social gatherings, etc., was one of the main reasons patients weren’t ready to commit to surgery. Back then, there was more demand for non-invasive procedures. However, with work from home and social distancing being the norm, it’s easier to recover without missing out on any events. Hence, more people than ever are flocking towards our practice for surgeries and more invasive procedures.