Is there a way to change the ear angle only slightly? If so, how invasive and costly might it be? (photo)

My ears don't stick out hugely like some people I have seen who had their ears pinned back but the things is I am going bald and when I shave my head to become more comfortable with hair loss then I am self conscious of my ears as they become more prominent (I cant have a Hair transplant). Is there a way to reliably move my ears in very slightly (a few mm's only)? I don't want an unnatural pinned back look especially as they will be on display when bald.

Doctor Answers 4

Naturally-shaped ears

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Dear jduk83,

The question you ask is a very reasonable one.  There are a number of techniques and maneuvers that create a natural and more refined appearance of the ears.  Unfortunately, there are some techniques that are outdated and do create an unnatural appearance, but we still find them being applied today.  Placement of the incisions is always made to be imperceptible in the event someone shaves their head or has their hair pulled back. Cartilage sparing techniques are now the mainstay in otoplasty surgery. I hope this helps you to find the best answer for you.

Be healthy and be well,

James M. Ridgway, M.D., FACS

Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 98 reviews

Otoplasty candidate

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And otoplasty procedure can accomplish conservative reshaping of the years to make them less prominent. The reason that the ears stick out is due to the lack of an anti-helical fold. The fold must be re-created with permanent sutures placed through an incision behind the ear. For many before-and-after examples, and our current price list, please see the link and the video below

William Portuese, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 158 reviews


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There are a tremendous number of maneuvers and techniques that allow us to shapes different parts of the ear. This not only includes latitude in reshaping the folds and furrows of the ear, but also the degree and position of set back. I totally agree with you that a set back that is too extreme is very unnatural. So to answer your question, yes, it is possible to set the desired portion back. Good luck.

Sepehr Egrari, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

More modest pinning back of the ears

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Hello there and thank you so much for your question; it is a good one!

There are a number of ways to correct prominent ears.

The oldest procedures cut through the cartilage and although successful left a tell tale visible ridge.

One of the most common methods involves scoring the cartilage like origami to make the ears fold back but there is a degree of unpredictability some of the time as you are relying on a response to the scoring which is not always completely the same; also you are denuding the cartilage of skin and so blood supply from the front and the back; there is sometimes a ridge visible from the back of the ear where the cartilage has been cut through. Nevertheless, in experienced hands, an excellent technique which I used to use but have now abandoned.

My favoured technique is now to use the posterior method which I published about 10 years ago  (see below) is not to cut through the cartilage at all but to weaken it and then by placement of sutures very carefully, to bend the ear back. There are a number of other key surgical elements that must be done to secure a good result but the main advantages are that the result, in my hands, is much more precise and predictable and the patient can almost ask me how much back they wish the ear to be. Most surgeons who use this 'posterior approach' tend to use permanent sutures as this means less recurrence but I have worked out techniques that result in lower recurrence rates without using permanent sutures which is of course helpful for the patient as there is nothing left in the ear to cause a problem in the future.

Finally there is a new device called the 'Ear Fold' by Allergan which I am not sure is yet available in the US but you could check. This is a small implant placed under local anaesthetic in a very short operation which can be checked prior to surgery by seeing how it works with the patient awake; it is similar to a spring-like clamp and can be just attached to the ear on the surface to test how the surgical result will be - if the problem is confined purely to the blade and projection of the ear this may be all that is needed and the result should be permanent but with a thin strip placed (permanently) under the skin at the front of the ear which is not visible.

I hope that this answer was helpful for you and my very best wishes in your pursuit of elegance in your profile.

Reference paper:

Mandal, A., Bahia, H., Ahmad, T., Stewart, K.J. Comparison of cartilage scoring and cartilage sparing otoplasty–a study of 203 cases. 

Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery  – JPRAS. 2006;59:1170–1176.

Tariq Ahmad, MBBChir, FRCS(Plast)
Cambridge Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.