Do your ears grow at all after an Otoplasty?

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, 32, California

Tags:cartilage grow back

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. 

Dr. Reza Momeni has 1 Otoplasty before & after:

Otoplasty before image performed by Dr. Reza MomeniOtoplasty after image performed by Dr. Reza Momeni

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Yes, it's true, depending on how you choose to look at it. But it's not anything you need to be worried about. Yes, there’s a chance the position of your ears will slightly shift back over the years, but highly unlikely they’ll ever shift back to the way they were before your otoplasty procedure.

The main component of our ears is cartilage. As we get older, our ear cartilage begins to lose some of its elastic quality and structural support. This gradual loss of elasticity and increase in compliance results in larger ears and noses.

After an otoplasty your ears will continue to grow normally just like everyone else's. It's an inescapable fact of life that the fundamental force of gravity will eventually take its toll. Older people can expect to have larger ears and noses than young people.

If you’re considering an otoplasty procedure because the size of your ears is negatively affecting your self-image and/or self-esteem, I wouldn't let this totally normal age-related growth deter you. You may even want to consider this inevitable future growth as an additional incentive to move forward with the procedure.

This is a common point of confusion. The short answer is no, your ears will not grow back to their original size after an otoplasty procedure.

An otoplasty plastic surgery procedure reduces the visibility of prominent or big ears. During the procedure your plastic surgeon will carefully stitch your ears back towards the sides of your head. As you grow older, this stitch may loosen somewhat, allowing the elastic cartilage of the ears to spring slightly back towards their original position. The degree of ear movement is usually small, however, and a full return to the original position is very rare.

Also, keep in mind that an otoplasty procedure to pin back the ears is typically performed during childhood, when ears still haven’t reached their mature size. After an otoplasty procedure your ears will still continue to grow, as they normally would.

As we age the cartilage in our body gradually loses its firmness and appears to swell or grow larger. Cartilage is the connective tissue composed of elastic fibers which gives our ears, nose and other body parts (rib cartilage, tendons and knuckles, for example) their firm, rubbery quality. Because our cartilage loses elasticity as we age, our ears and noses tend to appear larger the older we get.

Plus, as cartilage grows, gravity causes a slight amount of droop, which is why it's common to see larger noses start to turn down at the tip -- and larger ears start sagging -- in elderly people.

Your ears won't grow back after your otoplasty, but all of us can expect to have bigger ears and noses, along with a certain amount of gravity-induced sag, as we get older. After your otoplasty procedure, with time the elastin fibers in the ear tissue will slightly give way, which might cause a slight loosening of the stitch holding your ears in place.

I don’t think this should be any cause for concern.

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.

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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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