Ear pinning surgery is gaining popularity as the pandemic's Zoom boom has put all eyes on our ears

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(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
(Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
  • The number of people opting for medical aesthetic interventions to help them look and feel their best has been on a steady increase.
  • However, it’s not just procedures targeting the visible signs of ageing that are popular. 
  • Recent statistics reveal that the number of people opting for ear pinning surgery has increased significantly over the past year. 

Recent conversations and consultations with local aestheticians and specialist dermatologists have revealed that increased screen time due to the pandemic has made us more critical of lines, dips, bumps, and quirks on our faces. 

This has created an uptick in (mostly) non-invasive procedures intended to correct these concerns. 

READ MORE: We embrace ageing, but is there such a thing as the 'right age' to get your first Botox injection? 

The Zoom boom indeed has us zooming in on our small imperfections, and on weekends when there are no virtual meetings, other visual distractions may continue to highlight them. 

For example, on a recent weekend getaway, my suite was stylishly equipped with six mirrors of various sizes. These mirrors made me rather uh... reflective during my stay, and not in a profound way. Yes, by "reflective" I mean vain.

Come on, six mirrors are bound to spark vanity, and because we live in a digital world, selfies soon followed. And what did I notice in these pictures? 

My ears disappear when I take selfies.

Okay, this is hardly an imperfection, but rather an annoying optical illusion. It would appear the front camera somehow doesn't reach far back enough (if ever there were such a thing) to capture this tightly tucked pair, so I have to tilt my head ever-so-slightly, otherwise I would look like I have no ears. 

Some people are, however, seeing a different view.

They're seeing more of their ears the more time they spend in front of their screens. While the usual instant remedy for people who feel insecure about their prominent ears is letting their hair/braids cascade down either side of their face to cover them, it seems more individuals are now seeking a more permanent fix; ear pinning surgery. 

The operation - once restricted primarily to young children - is rapidly becoming one of the most popular cosmetic options for adults who are unhappy with their appearance.  

Perhaps pandemic habits have made us a little more aware of our ears; from the cumbersome stacking of masks, earrings, glasses, and sometimes earphones/pods on them, to feeling self-conscious about their protrusion or disappearance on camera.  

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 16: Ashley Weddingto
Stacked ears. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Getty Images) 

Dr Gertruida van Niekerk - a plastic surgeon specialising in otoplasty and ear reconstruction at The Specialist Laser and Cosmetic Institute (SCIN) at Wembley Square in Cape Town - has observed that there seems to be more and more people with a keen interest in this operation.  

“I have noticed a marked increase in inquiries about ear pinning surgery recently – possibly down to Covid-19's necessary Zoom meetings, which have shone a spotlight on the head and face," Dr van Niekerk shares.

"Those people who were already self-conscious about their ears might have noticed their protrusion more, and those who never really took a second look might suddenly be scrutinising themselves through their laptop lens," she adds. 

READ MORE: After the pandemic: Will we look any different due to changed grooming routines?

According to Dr van Niekerk, another contributing factor for the increase in people making the decision to undergo ear pinning surgery may be that this sort of operation can now be done as an out-patient procedure under local anaesthetic, whereas previously it was always under general anaesthetic. 

“With many people now working from home, we have seen a rise in cosmetic procedures overall as the recovery can be done in the privacy of your home office without colleagues and friends witnessing your journey. The same is possibly true when it comes to ear surgery, contributing to the growing number of people opting for this procedure," the plastic surgeon explains. 

About the procedure

“Ear pinning is a surgical cosmetic procedure that is performed on the outer ears to angle the ears closer to the head to make them less prominent. It’s a safe and effective treatment that can be carried out on both adults and children,” says Dr van Niekerk.“

During a prominent ear correction surgery, cartilage is modified with sutures to accomplish the main objective.  For adults, the procedure can be done in-office under local anaesthesia or in the OR under sedation. The procedure usually takes just over 30 minutes per ear.   

“All incisions are made behind the ears so that they are easily concealable, and patients will experience minimal post-operative discomfort.”

What are the benefits of ear pinning surgery (otoplasty)?

According to Dr van Niekerk, the most significant benefit of this surgical procedure is how it offers instant results. 

“Patients will immediately gain a confidence boost. For many people who have spent years trying to hide their ears and feeling self-conscious, this really is a life-changing cosmetic procedure!”

Dr van Niekerk advises that anyone who is interested in ear pinning surgery can contact SCIN Wembley Square to make an appointment for an initial consult to discuss their options.

You've made the call. Now what? 

“It is important to consult with an expert plastic surgeon who specialises in surgery of the outer ear,” says Dr van Niekerk, who advises that for an adult’s consultation for a possible ear pinning, the surgeon will ask the person about the following:

Medical history and physical health, including;

- A history of smoking

- Cardiovascular disease

- Diabetes

- High blood pressure or other circulatory disorders

- An unusual tendency to scar

- Any disorders related to blood clotting·  

READ MORE: 5 skincare trends that are growing as a result of the pandemic's effect on our habits

In addition to all this, the surgeon will explain:

- What the person can expect from the procedure

- Where the surgery will take place

- Recommendations for anaesthesia

- Possible complications

- Other recommended procedures

Recovery and results 

Dr van Niekerk explains that ear pinning results are virtually immediate, and because the procedure is considered minimally invasive, the recovery process is short and manageable.

“As with any surgical procedure, bruising and swelling are common for up to two weeks post-op.”

“When the person goes home, there will be a bandage covering the operative ear/s, along with a compression dressing that holds the restructured ear/s in place. The bandage stays in place for one week. Once the bandage comes off, patients can gently wash their face and hair. Doctors’ instructions will clarify how to clean the wound area with a cotton swab and protect the incision with antibiotic ointment," she explains.  

After surgery, your ears can finally catch a break from daily mask-and-earrings-and-glasses stacking, as Dr van Niekerk warns that the patient "should be prepared not to wear glasses or earrings for three weeks."

"Slight swelling, itching, and numbness are common after ear pinning surgery and resolve on their own in a few weeks," she concludes.

Additional information provided on behalf of SCIN @ Wembley Square

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