I'm a naval aviator interested in otoplasty, what would my recovery time be?

Because I fly frequently, I need to know how long I would need to be med down before I can resume wearing a helmet that applies some pressure to the ears. Thanks

Doctor Answers 11


For adults, otoplasty procedures are same-day surgeries performed in a surgery-center or office-based surgical setting.  Typically, general anesthesia is not needed.  We wrap patients with a head bandage overnight and then encourage a conventional head band (like an athletic sweatband) to be worn at night for a couple of weeks.  The ear is relatively fragile for the first 10-14 days.  Therefore, I would not recommend wearing a helmet for at least 2 weeks.  The barotrauma or altitude will have no impact on the procedure's outcome.

Good luck and thank you for your service!

Wayne Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 119 reviews


There are many different techniques for otoplasty, but most of them will leave your ears sore for a few weeks, especially if you need to wear a helmet over them.  I would figure on two to three weeks.

Ronald J. Edelson, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Otoplasty and helmet

if the helmet is somewhat firm and the least bit difficult to remove I would say to use that you need to give it at least 2 weeks before returning to active flight  duty.

for the most part you  can return to work in a week if everything is going well but again don't do anything put your ears in danger of being traumatized

Chase Lay, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

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Recovery time after Otoplasty

Hi. Prominent ear correction is a simple day surgery procedure. Afterwards there is a big head bandage, like a turban, that needs to stay on and be kept clean and dry for a week. After 7-10 days you should be able to return to normal everyday activities and work (no sport for 2-3 weeks).

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Helmet after Otoplasty

Dear bwaters
  • After the otoplasty, most people will wear a headband (NBA style)
  • This can be worn for protection and to mold the ears while healing
  • The helmet could be gently placed over this headband
  • The risk of developing bleeding under the skin could lead to a problem you see in wrestlers/UFC fighters
    • Calliflower ear can occur if the "hematoma" or bleeding under the skin is not treated
  • Likely, waiting 10-14 days after your surgery should be reasonable as long as you are careful. 
Best Wishes

Travis T. Tollefson, MD, MPH
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Headphones and flying

As a pilot as well, careful placement of the headphones  should  not be a problem. The  ears will be tender and sensitive for 2-3 weeks, but you  should be fine  with adequate care after 7-10 days.

Don Fontana, MD
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I'm a naval aviator interested in otoplasty, what would my recovery time be?

Hello bwaters,
It depends on whether you were operated on with the traditional method or with the new minimally invasive stitch method. With the stitch method, the recovery time is between 1 to 4 days because there can be pain during this time, and there is some bruising on the anthelix folds that usually disappears after a day. If it is important to you, you can already wear a helmet on the first day after the operation, as a bandage is unnecessary with this method.

Waldemar Merck, MD
Germany Plastic Surgeon

Recovery time following otoplasty

Allowing enough time for recovery is an important determinant of the final outcome following surgery.  Give yourself at least 10 to 14 days before exercising and before applying undue pressure to the surgical site.

William Numa, MD, FACS
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I'm a naval aviator interested in otoplasty, what would my recovery time be?

    The main risk would occur from the helmet disrupting the sutures.  As long as you are careful when placing the helmet,  you can return in a week or two.

Kenneth Hughes, MD

Los Angeles, CA

I'm a naval aviator interested in otoplasty, what would my recovery time be?

10-14 days should be adequate time to heal following otoplasty. The pressure is actually OK. The risk is displacing one of your ears while putting your helmet on in the first couple of weeks. That shouldn't be a problem though if you're careful. I hope this information is helpful.

Stephen Weber MD, FACS
Denver Facial 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.