Dr. Rae Osborn 22 Jul 2022

Ear pinning surgery is a cosmetic procedure that is completed to reposition the ears closer to the head. This is a way to fix ears that project too much from the sides of the head. Projecting ears do not compromise hearing ability but it can make people feel self-conscious leading to some psychological distress.

What is ear pinning surgery?

Ear pinning surgery falls under the category of otoplasty. Otoplasty is surgery completed on the ear. Ear pinning is a method used to place the ears in a position that is closer to the head so that they do not project outwards as much.

Ears that project more than 2 cm from the head are considered to be protruding. This is a common congenital issue affecting about 5 in every 100 individuals. Projecting ears usually do not cause medical problems but it can lead to depression and low self-esteem in those who have them.

Who qualifies for ear pinning surgery?

Usually, surgery is needed for both ears to ensure a symmetrical appearance of the face. Provided individuals are healthy enough, surgery is an option where the ears project. A child with many ear infections is unlikely to qualify for surgery.

  • Ear pinning surgery is often performed on healthy children over 5 years of age; often when the child is about 7.
  • Ear pinning can also be completed on adults.
  • It is not useful to have the surgery on a child whose ears have not yet stopped growing, which is why surgeons wait until the child is older.
  • Another reason for waiting for a child to be older is to ensure the cartilage of the ear is sufficiently developed, to make the operation possible and effective. This is because the cartilage needs to be tough enough to keep the stitches in place.

What are the benefits of ear pinning surgery?

Projecting ears can cause people to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Children may be bullied at school. This then may result in aggressive behavior and even problems in academic performance.

The benefit of the surgery in childhood is it leads to improved social interactions. It also helps to decrease anxiety and feelings of worthlessness. Adults also likely experience a boost in self-confidence once their otoplasty is done.

What is the procedure for ear pinning surgery?

The first decision to make is whether or not general or local anesthesia should be used. This depends on the individual case and is decided by the surgeon.

The surgeon will remove and reposition tissue as needed to create the desired look. The basic process is outlined below.

  • Anesthetic is administered to the patient.
  • In some situations, sutures can be used to attach the ear closer to the head without having to do any cutting.
  • In other cases, the surgeon begins by cutting the cartilage of the ear and other tissue. This can also involve cutting and moving the auricular muscle associated with the ear.
  • The repositioning of the ear is done so that the organ is placed closer to the head. This is most often done for both ears.

There are variations in the technique used, which likely depends on the particular patient.

The surgery does not take longer than 2 hours and people can often return home on the same day. Children often remain overnight in the hospital as a precaution.  It is considered a minimally invasive procedure in most cases.


After surgery, your head will be bandaged and you will be told how long to keep the bandage on and when to return to get the stitches removed. Sometimes stitches that are used simply absorb after a while. You should carefully follow all instructions given by your surgeon for aftercare.

What are the risks associated with ear pinning surgery?

There are some potential risks of having an otoplasty. The risks of ear pinning surgery are described below.

  • Allergic reactions: This can happen in some cases. A person may have a response to the materials used in the surgery. There is also a risk of allergy to the anesthetic agent that is used.
  • Risk of infection and bleeding: Similar to all operations, there is a chance of infection and also bleeding from the surgical site.
  • Scarring: Scars may be present, although a good cosmetic surgeon can often greatly minimize scarring through careful incisions made in folds of tissue.
  • Inflammation: Your body may mount an inflammatory response to the stitches used in the operation. This may sometimes mean that additional surgery is required.
  • Asymmetrical look: The healing may not give the expected outcome and a person may not have as much of a symmetrical look as they wanted.
  • Altered sensation: There may be temporary or permanent changes in feeling around the ear.

What other otoplasty procedures are done?

Besides ear pinning, there are a couple of other reasons for having an otoplasty. These are listed and described below.

  • Ear reduction: Some people are born with ears that are unusually large. This condition is called macrotia. This is a genetic anomaly that people are born with. The ears can be surgically altered so that they are not so big. Similar to ears that project too much, macrotia doesn’t normally cause hearing issues.
  • Ear augmentation: This is a procedure to increase the size of the ears, which is needed when people have microtia. Microtia is when people are born with unusually small ears. Hearing loss can occur with microtia depending on the extent of the condition, so babies need to be carefully assessed and treatment options planned.
  • Ear reconstruction: Traumatic injuries and basal skin cancers that need to be excised can cause deformities in the ear. This is when ear reconstruction surgery is needed to improve the appearance of the ear.


Ear pinning is one of the otoplasty procedures that is done to improve the appearance of the ears when they project too much from the head. Ear pinning is best done after a child is older than 6 years of age but can be done in adults. The surgery is a common cosmetic procedure that, although it has risks, is not a very invasive procedure.

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About the Author:

Dr. Rae Osborn has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was a tenured Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern State University where she taught many courses for Pre-nursing and Pre-medical students. She has written extensively on medical conditions and healthy lifestyle topics, including nutrition. She is from South Africa but lived and taught in the United States for 18 years.


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