“Pin back your lugholes!” used to be a favourite phrase for teachers, and kids who feel embarrassed about protruding ears may wish they could do exactly that.
Just like adults, kids are self-conscious about their appearance and sticking-out ears can be a genuine source of anxiety and teasing. One reason why ears can seem so prominent is because they reach adult proportions before the rest of the body, so by six years old, most kids are sporting the ears of a fully-grown adult. Different people, of course, have different ideas about how big or protruding their ears really are, but it’s reported that between one and two per cent of the population are unhappy with the size and shape of their ears. If you or your child feels that way too, there are a variety of things you can do.
In babies under six months the cartilage in the ear is still malleable and can be manually moulded into a different shape. The process is called pinaplasty or otoplasty, and it involves using a splint to control how the ear grows. Splints are usually worn constantly for a period of months, and are considered a painless and effective way of dealing with the problem. Splints are readily available from private companies, but you should talk to your doctor first, before embarking on a course of home-treatment.
In babies and children older than six months, the ear is already too developed to be remoulded, and the only option is surgery. Doctors won’t suggest this until a child is five or six, and the operation itself involves the removal of some of the skin and cartilage from the ear. In most areas in the UK you have to pay for an operation of this sort, and surgery can be expensive (up to £2,000). But if big ears are causing teasing and low self-esteem, surgery may provide a worthwhile solution.
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