Do your ears grow at all after an Otoplasty?

Tags: cartilage grow back

Will my ears grow after an Otoplasty? A doctor recently told me that my ears will end up growing back after the procedure. Is that actually true? Why would anyone get the procedure if your ears just go back to the way they used to be?


M, 30, California

An otoplasty pins the ears back to correct for prominent ears. This surgery is usually done when kids are 6-7 years of age and the ears are about 80% of their adult size. It is true that the ears may spring partway back from the corrected position but it is unlikely that they will recoil back to the full original position. This is not "growing back" but is a relaxing of the setback stitching that anchors the ears. For this reason, we often "overcorrect" to allow for some relaxation over time.

-- Dr. Sayed

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I assume you are referring to otoplasty surgery to stitch back overly prominent ears.

What many people refer to as "big ears" are not actually significantly larger than normal, but project outwardly at a greater angle from the side of the head.

Many years after an otoplasty procedure to pin back overly prominent ears, it’s possible the ears will shift back slightly towards their original position. This is not the result of "growth" of the external ear, however, but a matter of the stitches relaxing over time. This is a relatively rare occurrence, fewer than 10% of pinned-back ears require a subsequent revision at a later date.

If you are considering macrotia surgery to physically reduce the length of bigger ears, there is no chance of any tissue that was surgically removed growing back.

Of course, normal human ears (particularly men's ears) continue to grow over the course of an entire lifetime. If you compare the ear length of young people with the ear lengths of older people, you will see that ear cartilage grows long after the body has stopped growing. Female ears continue to grow into old age as well, but not to the extent that we see in older men.

Additionally, as we age and our connective tissue becomes looser, gravity causes our ears to droop somewhat.

Both normal adult ear growth and age-related drooping are to be expected and not related to otoplasty.

Without a direct consultation, I can't give you any specific medical advice, but the results of a successful otoplasty surgery should last a lifetime. I recommend you consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has extensive experience with otoplasty surgery.

In my experience cartilage tissue like the ear and the nose tip tend to grow over ones lifetime. The grow in size but otoplasty is not a size operation, rather a shaping operation, so that growth shouldn't affect the otoplasty effect. 

Most peoples ears are 80-85% of their adult size when they are 5 years old. The idea that the ears are "growing back" is not really the way to look at an otoplasty

You may have a recurrence of a condition called lop ear deformity which would be very unusual. You were probably being told that there is a rare possibility.  I recommend you have multiple consultations and see a Plastic surgeon with experience in ear surgery.

Best regards,

Jack Peterson MD