What is Otoplasty Surgery?

Ears become fully formed after age 5, by which time otoplasty is considered a safe and effective cosmetic procedure. In the case of prominent ear birth defects or deformities, otoplasty may be performed at an earlier age with doctor approval. As with other noticeable head and facial features, the ears play a major role in a person's opinion of their own appearance and can cause self-esteem issues in the case of deformity or an undesirable shape or size. Ear pinning surgery allows patients to achieve their cosmetic goals and reduce ear prominence or modify the misshapen ear features that bother them.

Additional Reading

Dr. Horn provides world-class otoplasty surgery in Chicago for patients seeking an expert's touch and ear surgery backed by renowned experience. Otoplasty is a relatively pain-free procedure that can be performed with a quick visit to the office under local anesthesia (you may also choose to have it done under general anesthesia). Otoplasty recovery time typically requires only a few days and you can return to work in as little as 3-4 days after your surgery. Your otoplasty with Dr. Horn will involve the safest and most effective techniques that modern surgery has to offer. Rest assured that Dr. Horn's exceptional skills will help you achieve a natural look with the quintessential features you desire.

blonde otoplasty patient model in a knit sweater

Where Will I Have My Surgery?

Depending on the requirements of your surgery, it may be performed under local anesthesia at Dr. Horn's office-based surgical facility, which allows for faster recovery times while minimizing risks of anesthesia complications.

In the case of extensive surgery requirements and other necessary measures, your surgery will be performed under general anesthesia at our state-of-the-art facility at Michael Horn Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Chicago. Rest assured that wherever your surgery is performed, Dr. Horn will always focus on patient comfort, safety and fantastic results.

What Does Otoplasty Treat?

Otoplasty treats various ear deformities and conditions as well as the shape, size and position of the ears. Otoplasty is an ideal solution for the following conditions and features:

  • Mactoria, or distinctly large ears
  • Ear profile, or how far the ear projects outwards from the head
  • Stretched or hanging earlobes, which typically occur with age or over time due to earrings or other ear modifications
  • Perichondrial hematoma, also known as cauliflower ear or wrestler's ear, which is common among participants in contact sports. Otoplasty serves to remove neocartilage and treat the ear tissue, restoring it to a natural appearance.
  • Ear birth defects and developed deformities
  • Damaged ear tissue as a result of injury
  • Overall dissatisfaction with the appearance of your ears
  • Disapproval of previous ear surgery

Please note that otoplasty may be recommended for both ears to ensure symmetrical and natural-looking results. This surgery is not intended to move your ears, and is limited to modifying the shape, size, appearance and formation of your ears in their current place. Otoplasty does not affect your hearing.

otoplasty patient model with her hair pushed behind her ear
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Does My Health Insurance Cover Ear Pinning Surgery?

Generally speaking, health insurance plans exclude elective cosmetic surgeries such as ear pinning along with any resulting complications or required follow-up surgeries. In the case of ear surgery procedures necessary for the treatment of medical symptoms or to improve your hearing, coverage may be available. Please consult with your insurance company to discuss the possibility of receiving coverage for your otoplasty surgery. Please note that any available coverage typically requires pre-certification.

Does Otoplasty Have Any Risks?

While Michael Horn Plastic Surgery & Med Spa practices the safest and most advanced surgical techniques in the world, every form of surgery involves certain risks that a patient must consider before electing to proceed. While complications with otoplasty are generally considered rare, please note that ear surgery includes the following risks:

  • Bleeding and blood clots
  • Risk of infection
  • Inflammation
  • Affected skin sensation
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Difficulty healing
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Scarring
  • Persistent pain
  • Allergic reaction to surgical materials and agents
  • Asymmetrical appearance or overcorrection
  • Required follow-up surgery

All risks and complications associated with otoplasty will be discussed in detail during your visit with Dr. Horn and his team. We understand that ear surgery is very important to you and will make sure you are fully-informed before making your decision. Your choice should be yours and yours alone and should not be influenced by any other person. Please take the opportunity to ask as many questions as you like during your visit with Dr. Horn until you feel comfortable enough to move forward. Should you like to proceed, you will be asked to sign a consent form stating that you understand all the risks and complications involved with otoplasty.

otoplasty patient model in a white sunhat and bikini top
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What Should I Expect During My Consultation with Dr. Horn?

Your otoplasty consultation with Dr. Horn is a chance to talk about ear surgery with someone that understands how you feel and has the knowledge and skills to help you achieve your goals. During your visit, it's important to be very open about what you would like to see after surgery to give Dr. Horn full insight into your expectations. Your consultation will involve a careful examination of your ears and Dr. Horn's expert opinion on how to achieve optimal results. During your first visit, please be prepared to:

Perform a physical exam:

Dr. Horn will study your ears and all details relevant to surgery such as their placement, size, shape, and symmetry. Your physical exam may include pictures of your ears for medical records.

Discuss your expectations:

Explain why you would like to receive otoplasty surgery and what you're hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Please make sure you understand the risks of surgery, such as possible overcorrection before electing to proceed.

Review your medical history:

You will be asked questions about current and past medical conditions, particularly ear infections and conditions that affect the ears. You will also be required to inform us of any current or recent medications as well as previous surgeries, allergies, drug allergies, and any relevant lifestyle details for surgical safety purposes.

If you're a good candidate for otoplasty:

Dr. Horn will inform you of any preparatory steps you need to take before surgery. Please keep in mind that the success and safety of your surgery greatly depends on your openness in providing us with accurate information. You will be fully-informed of any potential risks and complications involved with otoplasty during your consultation and in advance of your surgery. If you're interested in correcting or perfecting your ears with otoplasty Chicago facial surgery expert, Dr. Michael Horn, can answer all of your questions and address your concerns during a consultation. Call us today!


Depending on the requirements of your surgery and Dr. Horn's recommended course of treatment, your surgery will either be performed at our office-based surgical facility or at our surgical center here in Chicago. The location of your surgery will depend on whether it will include local anesthesia or general anesthesia. The requirements of your surgery will be determined upon your consultation with Dr. Horn, which will include a review of surgical techniques as well as what type of corrections and adjustments are best suited to your needs. The assessment will also determine incision locations and any resulting scars post-surgery.

Your otoplasty may include the following:

  • Incisions on the rear of your ears
  • Incisions in the creases of your ears
  • Removal of excess skin
  • Removal of excess cartilage

Following any removal of cartilage, Dr. Horn will fold the remaining cartilage into position and apply internal stitches to hold it in place. The incisions will then be closed with external stitches. Please be informed that outpatient surgeries require you to be accompanied by a friend or a family member that can legally drive you home after surgery. For your safety, you will not be released to a cab or an Uber following your surgery. It's strongly recommended to have company for at least one night following general anesthesia. Otoplasty typically takes 2 hours to perform.

Otoplasty involves a series of steps that include:

Step 1: Anesthesia Anesthesia involves the administration of medical agents that provide a numbing sensation to a target area or a sedative that causes you to fall asleep. Dr. Horn will recommend an optimal course of treatment based on a professional assessment of your health and surgery goals.

Step 2: Making the Incisions Dr. Horn will make precise incisions based on the recommended course of treatment for the purpose of creating a new or increased antihelical fold (inside the ear's rim) and the reduction of enlarged conchal cartilage (the large, deep cavity of the ear's external tissue). Most incisions take place behind the ear while any necessary incisions in the front will be hidden from view within the creases. After removal of excess cartilage or tissue, the remaining cartilage will be aligned and non-removable sutures will be inserted to keep it in position.

Step 3: Sealing the Incisions To seal the incisions, Dr. Horn will apply external sutures using calculated techniques that help avoid structural deformity, asymmetry and unnatural orientation. After the incisions are sealed, ear surgery is complete and the healing process can begin.

How you regard the shape and size of your ears should be a personal opinion only and never influenced by another person. Your decision to receive otoplasty is a personal choice and should always be treated as such.

If you have long hair that can be moved aside during ear surgery without difficulty, no hair preparation is necessary for otoplasty. If your hair is difficult to control around your ears, Dr. Horn may suggest a slight trim that grants unrestricted access to the area surrounding your ears. Dr. Horn will inspect your ears during your consultation visit, and if nothing is mentioned about your hair, you have nothing to worry about.

It's perfectly normal to feel some discomfort and mild pain after otoplasty surgery. You will be prescribed pain medication to help control the sensation, which should lessen significantly in the immediate days following surgery. You may also feel some itching under the bandages, but we strongly advise against scratching your ears or removing or displacing the bandages to avoid any unnecessary complications. It's also normal for swelling or numbness to persist for several weeks after surgery. If you have concerns about persistent swelling or numbness, please don't hesitate to call our offices and discuss the matter with Dr. Horn. Sensations of numbness typically diminish and go away with the swelling. A follow-up appointment will take place the day after your surgery, during which time the dressing will be removed and Dr. Horn will examine your ears to ensure that the healing process is underway and that the surgery has gone smoothly. You will be requested to visit us again after 6 weeks for a follow-up review of your surgery results. You may schedule this appointment at your convenience.

Post-Operative Instructions

It's important to follow the instructions given to you by Dr. Horn and our team after ear pinning surgery to ensure healthy and speedy recovery while avoiding any potential complications. Post-operative instructions will include:

Diet: Please avoid alcohol and caffeine for several days after surgery. These include beer, wine, spirits, coffee and tea. You may drink water, fruit juice and dairy.

Sleeping and Lying Down: Please try to avoid lying flat or on your side for several weeks after surgery. Reclining in bed while on your back to rest or sleep is recommended for up to 4 weeks after otoplasty, which will help with the swelling and recovery process. Avoid bending your head too far forward or to the side after surgery.

Bathing: Please allow 24 hours before bathing after otoplasty. After this time period, please feel free to shower as needed while taking exceptional care around your ears as you wash your ear. Avoid touching or rubbing your ears when you bath. During your first post-operative appointment, you will be instructed to apply bacitracin ointment on the incisions 2 times a day. You will also be shown how to put on a head band after each ointment application. Please perform this treatment daily for one week following otoplasty to prevent infection and ensure a smooth recovery.

Clothing: Following ear surgery, it's important to avoid putting any pressure on your ears. This includes clothing that is difficult to place over your head without touching your ears. Shirts with open collars or button down shirts are recommended.

Medication: Medications will be prescribed to you immediately following surgery along with instructions on when to take them. The medication prescriptions will account for any medication allergies you have informed us of prior to surgery and substitutes will be provided. Should you begin to experience any sort of allergic reaction upon taking your medication, please discontinue use and call us right away. Avoid aspirin or other blood-thinning pain medication such as ibuprofen for 4 weeks following surgery. You may take Tylenol if you have a headache.

Post-Operative Dressing: To prevent infection and support the recovery process, dressing and a compression band will be applied around your head after surgery, which must remain in place until your follow-up appointment with Dr. Horn the following day after surgery. Please do not remove the dressing or shift it out of place unless you are given specific instructions by Dr. Horn. Removing or shifting your dressing out of position may have a negative impact on the results of your otoplasty.

Physical Activity: To avoid complications with otoplasty, do not perform any strenuous physical exercise for two weeks following surgery. However, you will be instructed to perform daily walking in order to prevent blood clots from forming at or around the surgery site. You may begin increasing your physical activity one week post-surgery at a moderate pace. Please avoid all physical contact sports and swimming for 4 weeks following surgery. You may resume your normal exercise routine 6 weeks after surgery.

Skin Care: Please avoid glycolic (found in exfoliation, scar treatment, skin aging treatment and other skincare products), retinoids (found in skin treatment creams) and other potential irritants found in skin and hair care products for one week following surgery.

Sunlight: You will be instructed to keep your ears out of direct sunlight for 2 months following surgery, during which time they will be vulnerable to sunburn and potential skin discoloration when exposed to the sun's radiation. Wear a hat that offers sufficient sunshade for your ears and apply SPF 30 or higher to your ears when outdoors.

Otoplasty can achieve smaller ear size, reduced ear prominence, altered ear shape and the correction of deformities resulting from birth defects, development and injury. In many cases, you can expect to see positive results almost immediately after surgery, with further development taking place as the swelling goes down and the ears adjust to their new shape. Depending on the condition of your ears and your most hopeful goals, Dr. Horn may recommend a series of reconstructive surgeries to achieve optimal results.

All surgeries that require incisions leave some scar tissue, which can be minimized through expert technique in the case of otoplasty surgery. Dr. Horn takes utmost care to seal your scars without tension to promote natural healing, and may also apply medical agents such as kenalog and silicone sheeting to reduce visible scar tissue. Incisions are intentionally made behind the ears and within folds and creases of your ear tissue to help conceal scars naturally.

The average otoplasty cost in Chicago is $4,350. Most patients choose to undergo ear surgery for cosmetic reasons, so insurance rarely covers it. While budget is an important factor when selecting a qualified Chicago ear surgeon, other factors to consider are the surgeon's level of skill and experience in ear shaping procedures. With more than two decades of cosmetic surgical experience, Michael Horn MD offers his patients best-in-class service as well as an expert level of artistry and skill. To learn more about how much otoplasty costs based on your individual needs, contact Michael Horn Plastic Surgery & Med Spa for a consultation today.

No. Ears become fully formed after the age of 5 and only get bigger in relation to the size of the body in the case of growing children. Please note that while the outcome of otoplasty is permanent and can correct ear elasticity loss associated with old age, it cannot prevent it. Ear changes related to aging typically occur over a long period time whether you receive otoplasty or not. You may always choose to have additional otoplasty surgeries as you age to maintain desired shape.

Yes, and they will be discussed during your consultation with Dr. Horn. It's important to know your own medical background before initiating any type of surgical procedure to ensure your safety and avoid potential complications. Medical issues that may render otoplasty unadvisable include chondritis, chronic ear infections, and ear draining. If you have a history of keloid or hypertrophic scarring, you may be at risk of keloid formation as a result of otoplasty surgery.

You may resume wearing earrings 4-6 weeks after your ear surgery. Please talk to Dr. Horn if you have a strong preference for heavy earrings and when it's okay to wear them again.

Otoplasty has no effect on your hearing ability.

Yes, but they will be barely visible, if at all. Dr. Horn will use professional techniques to conceal your otoplasty scars, including on the earlobes.

Prominent ears are typically inherited and as much as 5% of the world population has prominent ears.