Otoplasty, a cosmetic ear reshaping procedure often known as “ear pinning,” is most often performed to bring ears closer to the head. Many children and adults are embarrassed by protruding ears and may even suffer teasing or bullying, especially while still in school. Otoplasty can often put a stop to this problem even before a child enters school, as the ears tend to mature by the age of 5.

If you’ve been doing any research on the procedure, then you’ve probably noticed that the terms “otoplasty,” “ear pinning,” and “ear reshaping” tend to be used interchangeably. But why? Are they even the same procedure?


The first thing you need to know is that essentially, ear pinning and otoplasty are the same procedure. Plastic surgeons may use different techniques depending on the patient’s cosmetic concerns, but the goal of the procedure is the same: to address any abnormalities or cosmetic issues affecting the outer ear. Otoplasty does not affect the hearing or inner structures of the ears.


In most surgical procedures, tissue such as cartilage is removed and reshaped. While that’s often true during an otoplasty procedure as well, there are some different techniques that can be used, which may have influenced the term “ear pinning.”

During ear reshaping surgery, cartilage is often removed at the base of the outer ear to bring the ears closer to the head. However, some plastic surgeons use a different method. Instead of excising the cartilage, they simply make an incision in the crease where the ear meets the head, fold the cartilage, and use permanent sutures to bring the ears closer to the head.

This method may explain the ear pinning name since it relies on the use of sutures to hold the ear cartilage in place. Regardless of the method, however, the result is the same: the ears are brought closer to the head, helping with self-esteem and bullying prevention.


Although most people think of ear pinning as the physical act of pinning the ears back, there could be a linguistic origin of the term as well. The outer ear is known as the “pinna” and in the United Kingdom, the procedure is sometimes referred to as a “pinnaplasty.” With that in mind, the term could have something to do with the medical term for the outer ear, as well as a description of the procedure itself.


In cosmetic medicine, ear pinning is somewhat unique. It is one of the only cosmetic procedures that is routinely performed on children who have not yet entered kindergarten. While most surgeries are intended for adults who have the maturity to make their own decisions, otoplasty is often a good idea for children for two important reasons.

First, children are often bullied for being “different” in any way. Ears that protrude, a lop ear deformity, or any other ear abnormality can make a child an easy target for bullying early in life. Bullying can be extremely harmful to a child’s psychological well-being and development. Children who are bullied from an early age often become withdrawn and have trouble with normal social interaction due to their experiences. While performing otoplasty does not guarantee that a child will not be bullied, it does remove one obvious target and reduces the chances.

Second, the ear cartilage is very soft and supple just after the ears have matured. The procedure is often easier to perform and more successful when it is done at an early age. Adults can and do undergo otoplasty, but many plastic surgeons feel it is best performed at an early age whenever possible. Some children may not even remember the experience when they grow up.


Seeking out plastic surgery, especially for your young child, can be scary and intimidating. It’s important to discuss your options with an experienced, compassionate board-certified facial plastic surgeon. They can answer all your questions, put you at ease, and give you their honest opinion about you or your child’s candidacy.

If you’re looking for an expert resource in the Austin area, Dr. Edward Buckingham can help. Dr. Buckingham is a renowned facial plastic surgeon who has in-depth knowledge of otoplasty and has worked with many young patients in the past. Call Buckingham Center today at 512.401.2500 to learn more about ear pinning or to schedule a consultation at our Austin, TX facility.

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