Think back to your days in school. If you had any sort of physical feature that was different from what kids considered “normal,” odds are likely that they teased you mercilessly about it. Now look at your own child. If he or she has protruding ears, the school years might be a bit rough.
Although people often think of facial plastic surgery as something for older people looking to appear younger, some surgeries, such as otoplasty, are best suited for younger patients. While adults and teenagers can have otoplasty, or ear surgery, younger children often make the best patients. Here’s why.
The goal of otoplasty is to reposition ears that protrude from the sides of the head. The surgery is sometimes called ear pinning, since it flattens the ears against the head. Children as young as age four can be candidates for the procedure. By the age of four, the cartilage in the ears is often firm enough to allow a surgeon to manipulate and reshape it.
Typically, there are two ways in which ear surgery can be performed. The traditional method involves making a small incision behind the ears, then removing a portion of the cartilage, before the incisions are closed. A newer method requires no incisions. Instead, the surgeon uses carefully positioned sutures to stitch the ears back. The incision-less method isn’t for every patient, but offers a few advantages. Notably, the recovery period is shorter and there is a reduced amount of swelling and bruising.
Since otoplasty is a type of surgery, some recovery is needed afterwards. Many patients are able to return to daily activities after about 10 days, although they usually need to wear a special headband to bed for about two weeks.
If your child plays sports, it’s a good idea to schedule ear surgery around his or her sports schedule. After the procedure, any sort of sport that involves contact should be avoided for about three months.
Reason to Have it at a Young Age #1: To Reduce Bullying
Why do parents choose ear surgery for their younger children? One of the major reasons is in an effort to reduce bullying. Most people know that kids can be ruthless. If a child is different in anyway, it’s likely that child will be teased for that difference. Although older adults sometimes look at children with big ears and think they are cute, young kids are going to see those same ears and make up taunts such as “Mickey Mouse!” and “Dumbo!”
While some people might think that being bullied helps build a child’s character, the reality is that it can have a significant, negative effect on a young person’s self esteem. A child who’s bullied about his or her ears at a young age might spend years feeling less than or feeling self-conscious about the way he or she looks.
Reason to Have it at a Young Age #2: To Make Things Easier
Another reason why parents often choose otoplasty for younger children is simply to make the surgery easier for all involved. Typically, people get the best results from the procedure when it is performed at a younger age, since the ears are still relatively flexible. People can have ear surgery later in life, but the cartilage is stiffer and the results might not be as good.
Plus, when a child has the surgery at younger age, such as four or five, he or she is less likely to remember much, if anything, about the procedure. He or she might remember having the surgery, but likely won’t remember the discomfort associated with it and won’t be likely to develop a fear or dread of hospitals or doctor’s offices.
Is Your Child Ready for Otoplasty?
While a four- or five-year-old might be physically ready for ear surgery, it’s also important that parents consider the emotional health and well-being of their child before scheduling surgery. One thing that is particularly important is that your child be able to follow instructions, as that will make taking care of the ears after surgery and the recovery process in general go a lot more smoothly.
Your child should also be relatively comfortable going to the surgeon’s practice for the consultation and on the day of the procedure. If your child kicks, screams or otherwise protests the process, it might be best to put off surgery until he or she is better prepared for it emotionally.
Have a number of chats with your child about the surgery before the consultation and afterwards. You want your child to understand that the procedure will help him or her, but that it’s not something that needs to be done if he or she absolutely doesn’t want it. It’s important not to pressure your child or try to force him or her to have the surgery.
If you are interested in learning more about otoplasty or believe it is the right thing for your child, contact the Naderi Center, which has practices in Virginia and Maryland, today. The Naderi Center’s team is made up of surgeons who specialize in a particular area of the body, such as Dr. Jessica Kulak, who specializes in the aging face and Dr. Shervin Naderi, who specializes in surgeries of the face and neck. Call 703-481-0002 for an appointment in Virginia or 301-222-2020 for an appointment at the practice in Maryland.