Recently, a young boy from Salt Lake City, Utah had ear surgery, also known as otoplasty, because he was bullied too much at school.
The 6-year-old boy’s classmates used to tease him by calling him ‘elf ears’. His parents decided that plastic surgery would be the best option since they were afraid of the effects that bullying would have on their son.
According to Dr. David Staffenberg, chief of paediatric plastic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, these types of surgeries are becoming more common nowadays.
Dr. Staffenberg believes that the Internet may have increased the popularity of otoplasty. It is possible that in the past not many people knew about this procedure and thought that it was quite uncommon, so they did not see it as an option.
Although parents feel conflicted and have a feeling of guilt when opting for the surgery, Staffenberg says they should not.
“One of the confusing things parents battle with is the incorrect notion that this kind of surgery is for vanity, or purely cosmetic.” Dr. Staffenberg stated.
Otoplasty is not necessarily a purely cosmetic surgery because it can also be seen as a reconstructive surgery, according to Jeffrey Ascherman, chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Columbia University in New York City.
Cosmetic surgeries have the purpose of enhancing a ‘normal’ feature, while reconstructive surgeries are performed to bring back a person’s feature to a ‘normal’ look, Dr. Ascherman said.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons track surgical procedures, but only in adolescents and adults, so it is not known exactly how many plastic surgeries are performed on children each year.
A similar ear-shaping procedure, which does not involve surgery, can be done when the child is a few weeks old. During that time, the infant’s ear cartilage can be moulded, giving doctors the possibility of reshaping the ears, Staffenberg explained.
However, if the short window is missed the parents will have to wait until the child is at least 5 years old, before the surgery may be performed. Dr. Staffenberg said that the cartilage in the ear becomes stiffer after a few weeks of infancy, but not stiff enough to be corrected through surgery.
Depending on the patient’s ears, several procedures can be performed. For instance, the surgeons may correct the fold in the ear cartilage for patients who have ears that stick out more. Others – whose ears are rotated forward more than usual – may need to have part of the tissue behind the ears removed, Dr. Ascherman stated.
That being said, ears that stick out are not such a bad thing after all. Even a study that was conducted in 2015 found that kids who have ears that stick out more, look a lot cuter.
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