Expert Doctor

Ear Pinning: Procedure, Cost, Recovery & Results

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Sheila Nazarian, MD

Beverly Hills, CA

Ear Pinning

What is Ear Pinning?

Ear pinning, also known as traditional otoplasty or pinnaplasty, is performed when a surgeon recreates certain anatomical structures in the ear to give a more aesthetic appearance. Ear pinning occurs when the doctor pushes the ears back towards the head so they are no longer sticking out in an awkward position. Many individuals are unhappy with the shape or size of their ears starting as early as their childhood. They might also feel that the ears stick out more than they like or they have a droopy or asymmetrical appearance. Ear pinning can have a dramatic impact on the appearance and the self-esteem and confidence of a patient.

Am I A Good Candidate For Ear Pinning?

These conditions make a person a GOOD CANDIDATE for ear pinning:

  1. When the superior crus in the upper third of the ear is blunted causing the upper part of the ears to stick out
  2. When people have a conchal bowl of the ear that is too wide
  3. When the angle of the ear from the skull to the bowl on the back of the ear is too wide
  4. They are tired of hiding their ears with their hair
  5. They have “Dumbo ears” and people make fun of them

There are not many age restrictions when it comes to ear pinning. However, children under the age of four are usually not good candidates as their ears are still growing. Children normally have the procedure starting at the age of six (or above) because that is the age when the ears have developed to a size that is somewhat close to an adult ear.

The surgery can be done completely under local anesthesia. If the patient is afraid of having it performed while awake, he or she can choose to have it done under general anesthesia.

How Is Ear Pinning Performed?

The surgeon begins the procedure by making an incision behind the ear in order to expose the cartilage. Any excess skin is removed and the cartilage is reshaped. If necessary, the ear is then repositioned closer to the head before the incision is closed with sutures or stitches. Patients with protruding ears have their ears positioned more closely to the sides of their head.

The techniques used to perform ear pinning can be divided into two groups:

  1. Cartilage Scoring – This method involves making incisions in the cartilage in order to add, rearrange or remove any tissue. There is a greater risk of scars with this method because of the incisions.
  2. Cartilage Sparing – A technique that utilizes stitches and sutures to change the shape and position of the ear. This method is less invasive and has results that are smoother in appearance.

Reconstructive Ear Surgery:

Patients who need otoplasty to correct injuries and deformities can have reconstructive ear surgery to treat issues caused by:

  • Birth defects
  • Burns
  • Torn piercings
  • Lacerations

Reconstructive ear surgery uses reconstructive methods, along with surgical techniques such as skin grafts and cartilage from other parts of the body, to make an ear that is natural in appearance.

Newborns can undergo a procedure known as ear molding during the first few weeks of life. It is for patients whose ears have not really unrolled. Some people are born with the rim of their ears kind of scrunched in or unraveled. They can have moldings taken to push the ear into its ideal shape. If this process is started during the first few days of life, the patient may not ever need surgery.

What Is The Cost Of Ear Pinning?

The cost of ear pinning depends on the amount of work performed by the surgeon and if cartilage scoring or cartilage sparing is used during the procedure. In general, the cost of ear pinning is between $2500-$5500. Some of the cost might be covered by insurance if the surgery is deemed to be medically necessary.

Recovery and Downtime

In terms of the procedure itself, there is not a lot of RECOVERY involved. There is about a week of bruising and a few weeks of swelling. Depending on the patient, he or she might want to hide their ears for three or four weeks.  Besides the swelling and bruising, there might be some temporary pain but it will pass on its own.

Once the surgery is performed, the head of the patient will be wrapped with cotton bandages that are heavily padded for a few days. After those bandages are removed, the patient will need to wear a lighter bandage for another few days. The total bandage wearing time is about a week. The patient will then need to wear a soft headband in order to cover the ears and keep them in their correct position. The doctor will determine the amount of time necessary for wearing the headband.


In general, the results of ear pinning are permanent. There is a small chance for the ears to revert back to where they were before the surgery but using permanent sutures helps minimize that complication. Overall, if a patient passes the six month mark without any sign of the ears reverting to their original position, the patient no longer has to worry about the ears reverting.

Limitations and Risks of Ear Pinning

While ear pinning can provide excellent results, there are a few LIMITATIONS patients should be aware of before having the surgery:

  • Patients have to be realistic with their expectations because some people are born with one ear worse than the other. Their ears are not born completely symmetric so they will not have completely symmetric ears after the surgery.
  • Another limitation is how much the doctor can take the ear back and not make the top rim stick out. When the top part of the ear, and the earlobe, stick out further than the middle part of the ear, this is called a telephone ear deformity.  A doctor can only take the ear back so far before causing a telephone ear deformity.
  • Ear pinning also has a few RISKS involved with having the surgery:
  • The ear might come back out
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Scarring

Consult With A Doctor

Ear pinning can give a patient relief from ears that stick out too far due to a variety of reasons. While ear pinning can give ears a more aesthetic appearance, there are limitations as to how much of a change can be made to the appearance of the ears. Patients should consult with an experienced surgeon to determine how much of a change can be made and if they are an ideal candidate for an ear pinning procedure. Find a doctor near you and schedule a consultation.


Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team – MA

Based on an exclusive interview with Sheila Nazarian, MD in Beverly Hills, CA