Ear Pinning: What is the best age for kids?

by Dr. Jason Martin 

July 17, 2020

Prominent ears can make it really difficult for kids to socially navigate through the early years.  From the standpoint of their psychosocial development, the negative effects are real and well documented.  Teasing and bullying can lead to a negative self image, especially at a time that often has long lasting effects..  Therefore, for parents with kids who have prominent ears, it is smart and reasonable to consider an Ear Pinning (Otoplasty) procedure.  One of the most common questions we get from parents is what is the best timing for this surgery?  Fortunately, we have a lot of data on the recommended ages. It falls within 2 distinct age ranges and correlates with a child's psychosocial and physical development.

The preferred range is within the early time frame (4-5 years of age): Parents, for good reason, usually want to get this surgery completed as early as possible. Addressing this issue before a child reaches school age shields them from the expected increase in negative social interactions.  But too early has its problems as well.  It is important to wait until the ear is almost fully developed before considering any correction.  At the low end, this occurs between the ages of 4 to 5.  At this age range the ear is about 85% developed and the success of this surgery increases as well as the permanence of the results.  If you do surgery at a younger age, before development is completed, you have a much higher risk of surgery failure and relapse of the prominent ears.  

Starting around the age of 5, kids become more self aware and by the age of 7, they begin to develop logical reasoning skills.  Undergoing an ear pinning procedure past the age of 5 can actually have unintended consequences from a psychosocial standpoint.  Once concrete self awareness exists, introducing the idea of an ear pinning procedure to your child can actually reinforce and worsen a negative self image.   This can persist, even if the surgery is completed.

The alternative range is within the later time frame (13-15 years of age): If an ear pinning is not completed around the age of 5, it's best to wait until your child is a teenager.  This stage of development is defined by an improved ability to consider abstract reasoning. Therefore, as a teenager, your child should be able to fully understand, in a mature way, the reason to address prominent ears.  It also allows them to make a reasoned decision, deciding if this surgery is right for them.  It can be an empowering decision for many teenagers and it will alleviate, at least one stressor, that can plaque them through this most difficult portion of their development.

Check out our podcast, Beauty and the Surgeon, for more information on Ear Pinning (Otoplasty).

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