Ear reshaping 

Introduction 

Protruding ears can be a characteristic that runs in families, but they can often occur for no obvious reason 

The outer ear

The outer ear, known as the pinna, is made up of a number of ridges of cartilage. The outer ear collects and channels sound waves into the middle ear where the sound is amplified and then transferred to the inner ear. Sound information is then sent from the inner ear to the brain.

Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue found throughout the body. It is used as a shock absorber in joints and for creating specially shaped and curved body parts that would otherwise have no support from the bones, such as the outside of the ears and the nose.

Cosmetic surgery

Things to consider, plus questions to ask a surgeon, what to expect and the risks of surgery

Ear reshaping is a type of cosmetic surgery used to treat protruding ears. The operation is also known as otoplasty or pinnaplasty.

Surgery to reshape the ears involves remodelling the cartilage into a less protruding shape. The two main techniques for correcting protruding ears are:

  • ear splinting – this involves resetting the soft cartilage and using a splint to keep the ear in the new position; it's used to treat babies under six months old
  • otoplasty or pinnaplasty (pinning back the ears) – where the cartilage is remodelled to create the missing folds and position the ear closer to the head

Learn more about when ear reshaping is used and what happens during ear reshaping.

Both procedures are considered safe and most people are happy with the results. However, as with all types of surgery, there are some risks to consider. Read more about ear reshaping results and recovering from ear reshaping.

Why is ear reshaping used?

About 1% of people in the UK think their ears stick out too much. Having protruding ears does not usually affect a person’s hearing, but can sometimes cause embarrassment and psychological distress.

Ears are one of the first parts of the body to develop to full adult size, so if they protrude they can be particularly noticeable in children and may lead to teasing or bullying.

Sometimes, the parents of a child with protruding ears worry more than the child. They are often concerned their child’s ears will upset the child and lead to them being bullied at school.

Adults with protruding ears can have practical problems. For example, they may find it difficult to wear certain items of headgear, such as a motorbike helmet. Women with protruding ears may also feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about wearing their hair up.

Protruding ears

Protruding ears can be a characteristic that runs in families, but this is not always the case.

The outer ear is designed to stick out from the side of the head at an angle of about 20 to 35 degrees. However, in a small number of people, the angle is more than 35 degrees, resulting in protruding ears.

Protruding ears can happen if there is too much cartilage, or if the ridge of cartilage at the top of the ear does not fold properly as it develops. They can also be the result of an injury to the ears.

Availability on the NHS

Financial support for treating protruding ears varies considerably between different primary care trusts (PCTs).

Some PCTs will not fund corrective treatment carried out purely for cosmetic reasons. Others may request psychological or psychiatric reports as proof that a person’s ears are causing significant psychological distress before agreeing to fund treatment.

A number of criteria have to be met for an otoplasty to be made available on the NHS. Ear splints are available in some PCTs and GP surgeries. Read more about the availability of ear reshaping.




Page last reviewed: 11/10/2012

Next review due: 11/10/2014

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Comments

The 15 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

User363175 said on 15 May 2014

Having my ears pinned back was the best thing I have ever done.
I got it done at 15 on the NHS and the process was amazing. It was quick and painless and healed in just a few weeks.
If you are considering doing it, do it now! Go to the doctors and get some information.
I recently had an ear infection which pushed my ear forward and I remembered how bad they looked. I was so down for and self conscious for a few days but once it had healed and went back to place I remembered just how grateful I was.

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Scotty1994 said on 07 May 2014

I had this operation (on the NHS) done three years ago and it was the best thing i have ever done. I always felt insecure about them like people were looking at them so I had them pinned back. Everything is fine except there is a stitch still in my ear and the NHS have said no to removing it and told me to go private which at 19 years old is ridiculous.

If you are being bullied or you feel it is effecting your life then go to your GP and tell them that. They can usually help if something like that has happened.

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HannahEngland said on 18 December 2013

I am 18 years old and I had Pinnaplasty at the end of October. My surgery was on the NHS so I didn't have to pay anything - I don't know whether this was because I told them it was affecting me or whether it is always on the NHS. I went to the doctors and told them I was unhappy about my ears and that I had been laughed at as a child. I was referred to the local general hospital and they agreed that I needed them doing. I was having surgery 2 months after my first visit to the GP! My ears are still numb and the scars are still quite tender but I am happy with them and I'm glad I got them done. The surgery took 2.5 hours and I was in and out in the same day. I still have to sleep on my back now as it hurts to lie on my side, however I know someone who has had hers done and hers were fine within a few weeks. different for different people I suppose!

To anyone that wants to have it done, do it. It was the best thing I did and I'm a lot more confident now.

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Martin350 said on 26 September 2013

Has anyone here heard of the EarFold? It's a treatment where 2 clips are inserted into your ears, taking about half an hour. I'm considering getting it done. It's only available privately.

Cheers
Martin

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Danny5438 said on 03 September 2013

Hello I'm 20 years old and my ears stick out quite bad. This really affects my confidence and self esteem. What is the process to get them pinned back? Is there a cost involved?

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LukasE said on 11 July 2013

I am 21 and have suffered from bullying and abuse all my life. People stare at me and then laugh as they walk past I don't know if it's paranoia. Through my teenage years I had no female attention and was made fun of which from then on just demolished all my confidence and self esteem to the point where I hated how I looked and led to self harming. I used to wear beanie hats in summer and stay indoors and got chubby. I've been too nervous and embarrassed to see a doctor about correcting them but now I feel it's time to man up but I'm so worried that I will not get approved. Do they need evidence of my scars on my arms or what??

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rivaside42 said on 10 June 2013

I am a 16 year old male and my ears stick out way too far. I would really like the operation but when I saw my GP he didn't seem too keen on letting me have it done. This is a huge shame as my ears really lower my confidence and self esteem. A chance to have them pinned back would be the best, unfortunately me or my parents cannot afford to pay for the operation. Now I have to wait for a letter to come through the door and then book an appointment to see a physicist. I really hope I am allowed the operation even if it takes over a year, just have to cross my fingers I guess.

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livsmags said on 03 April 2013

I am a 13 year old girl, and one of my ears stick out more than the other, i am not exaggerating but, it's really effecting me, I've quits sports because i had to tie my hair back and ballet also. I always feel as if people are judging me by my ears, i get teased a lot and i can't take it. What do i do to get otoplasty? do i get it done for free because i am under 16?please help. thank you

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RyanG321 said on 08 February 2013

Im 15 year old male, just turned 15 and i really want to get my ears pined back! I have done a decent amount of research on it and decided i really want it done.

I feel alot.... alot less confident as a person and pretty shy when meeting new people with my ears. My ears hold me back. I dont get bullied or anything bad like that but i kno people talk bout my ears n stuff behind my back and some people have said stuff but av just managed to brush it off n not get in a mess about it.

Now i kno you can get it for free on NHS if under 16 i think? but people say it has to be really bad! and have to be bullied n stuff... is this true? i mean i am alot less confident and i reckon if i did have this treatment done i would be a much better person and have confidence again as what i was like as a child again :). please someone help me :(, my mum is kind of against it n not really talked about it with her but i have brought it up...i am really shy n don't want them to think i'm being bullied or anything! please someone give me useful information :(

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gizmocat said on 21 November 2012

im 13 and my whole life people have bullied me for my ears.my school is messed and always make me tie my hair back. my mum has been in to discuss it with the teachers, but they never do anything or make any acceptions. because of this people will shout stuff at me when im in the corridors, and when im in lessons people come up behind me and poke them and make nasty comments in front of me, act like I didn't hear them, and act like I don't have feelings. I've always tried to ignore them, but it just makes me feel like I didn't want to get up in the morning, like I don't want to go to school, and like everyone's against me. after the bullying got worse, my mum took me to the doctor, and he just said I should ignore them, and that surgery wasn't available where I live. I was really upset, and he just looked really bored and hardly spoke at all, and just said he would get me a counsellor (which wont work, because there not gonna stop every single person from taking the mic out of me) so for the rest of my life I have to put up with bullying, and 'try to ignore them. But to be honest, I do try to ignore them, but when you have people taking the mic out of you all day, every day, it really gets you down, and you just feel like nobody cares.

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mummy31 said on 05 December 2011

I had my ears pinned about 25 years on the NHS, i was referred by the school nurse and it was so simple for my mum to get it done. My sister had it done to with no hassel. I am trying to get my 5 year olds ears pinned but have been told by my doctor that the NHS will not do it unless it is causing her pshyclogical problems, basically she is being bullied, then apparantly she will then have to see a pshycologist to see how badly it is effecting her I would like to thank the government for not putting the needs of my child first, but they are happy to waste more time and money on a child pshycologist. that wouldn't be needed in the first place if they funded the operation!
My daughters ears stick out quite bad and i cannot let her have her hair cut up short like she wants it, her hats ride up above her ears which makes it look worse. I wanted to get this problem sorted before it became an issue at school as at the moment she is a very confident little girl and I don't want that to change by any nasty comments made by peers at school.
Looks like we are going to have to fork out the £3k it costs to have it done privately.

Obviously it is a hereditory problem as my dads ears stick out, my sisters did and so did mine so I just hope that any other children I have don't have the same problem otherwise I will have to take out a second mortgage!

I agree with Purpul Flower the NHS shouldn't be a postcode lottery, my husband and myself have worked and paid our taxes so why should our child not be given the same choices as someone living in the "correct area"

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davidone said on 16 July 2011

My daughter was allowed to have the otoplasty operation was younger and was told to come back when she was ready (she had suffered a terrible accident which meant 3 operations) so at the time did not wish to go ahead. For two years I have been fighting with the PCT to plead with them to allow her the otoplasty - They keep declining and although I have appealed they are still refusing. I went to see the doctor with her who said that the NHS will not undertake her "bat ear" problem (made her feel so good) and for her to go to a private hospital. I have tried and all refuse to carry out the op until she is 18. She is refusing to go onto college which the doctor said was her own choice - and cannot get assistance as her school grades have not been affected by her ears?? (if you can make sense of that then please kindly enlighten me) I am desperate for help on this topic and would love someone to assist if they can.
I am totally at rock bottom over this situation and do not have the funds even if someone were kind enough to assist to pay the cost of the otoplasty which is estimated between 2k and 5k. Where can I go? I have written to MP's who just say that they can not help. I have written to the doctor and pleaded with them. I have written several times to the PCT -
why should my daughter have to go through this???? because the government do not feel she is worth bothering with? If she were obese then they would be prepared to assist and pay for all the costs.
PLEASE OFFER ME ANY ADVISE OR ASSISTANCE

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HannBee said on 15 May 2011

i am 15 and still attend secondary school, my ears stick out and i am very concious of them. i wear my hair up for school because i don't have much time in the morning so i don't have time to straighten my hair, so my ears sticking out is more visible to others. i sometimes hear others commenting about my ears which i try to ignore but it just upsets me. i want to have my ears pinned back while i am still young because i have heard that it is free on the nhs. my mum on the other hand isn't convinced about the surgery and won't allow me to have it until i am older because she doesn't think that i should have surgery this young, would anyone reccomend getting ear pinning back surgery? after the operation is it noticable and do they not stick out as much?

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merlin29 said on 03 April 2011

post code lottery: i had an ear (myryngyplasty) skin graft on my left ear drum to improve my hearing by nhs since this operation my left ear is lower and sticks out, i complained to my surgeon who agreed if he couldnt straighen my ear either he or my gp would refer me, i asked my gp if he would refer me only to be told that local pct doesnt fund ear pinning on the nhs in my area, im very upset i have one ear that is lower and sticks out because of the nhs and they wont sort it out because i dont live in the right area, post code lottery needs to go its unfair and affects alot of people live's

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Purpul Flower said on 27 February 2011

My child was refused surgery for ear re-shaping. Not because my GP did not think she was suitable but because I live in an area where my PCT does not fund the surgery. Why does treatment options reflect your postcode. I thought the NHS was based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

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