Episode 34: Can my Earlobe be Repaired?
Can my earlobe be repaired? So I'm going to give away the whole episode right now and say the answer is almost definitely yes. But don't worry, we're going to go into a little bit more detail than that. We're going to discuss exactly what earlobe repair is, how it works for different kinds of problems, what the recovery from earlobe is like and how much you can expect to spend on earlobe repair.
What is earlobe repair?
So what is earlobe repair? In its most basic form, earlobe repair is any procedure that is designed to restore your earlobe to its original aesthetic appearance. It follows from this definition that the nature of the procedure for any given person's earlobe repair will depend on the specific problem that person is having with their earlobes. There are several common scenarios that we see when people come in asking about earlobe repair. Probably the most common thing we see are stretched your lobes, and your lobes can stretch over time either from wearing heavy earrings or just from the process of aging alone.
This is because, as we've discussed in other episodes, over time our skin loses elasticity. It contracts less effectively. Just like almost any other body part, the earlobes respond to gravity and can actually hang more and become elongated over time. In a more severe version of this issue, heavy earrings or heavy ear piercings can actually stretch the earlobe so much that they actually rip the bottom and we can end up with what's called a cleft earlobe.
Finally, sometimes people that get gauges in their earlobes, and gauges are essentially circular piercings that are replaced over time with larger and larger circles to increasingly stretch the earlobe over time. Sometimes folks with earlobe gauges decide that they don't want them anymore, and those gauges can really significantly stretch out the earlobe and leave very large holes in the ear. So the exact kind of repair procedure that's necessary will depend on the problem that the individual is having with their earlobe.
Now, there are certain things that most of these procedures have in common. First, they can almost always be done under just some local anesthesia. That means we give you some numbing medicine to make sure you can't feel any discomfort from your repair, but you are awake and breathing on your own. So these are the kinds of procedures that you can walk into the office, have done over your lunch break in 30 minutes to an hour, in most cases, depending on the severity of the issue, and if it's either one or both earlobes, and then you can get back to work because you'll be awake and in good shape right after the procedure, because all we've done is make that area numb with some numbing medicine, just like at the dentist office.
What is recovery like after earlobe repair?
What is recovery like from an earlobe repair procedure? Well, this is something else that most of these procedures have in common, which is that you'll be a little sore as the numbing medication wears off. In some cases, for the more complex repairs, we'll end up prescribing pain medication, but this usually isn't any kind of severe pain. It's more just some soreness or discomfort that will go away after just a couple of days, but it's almost never the kind of discomfort that will keep you from getting back to your daily life, and certainly won't prevent you from going to work or school.
After almost all of these procedures, you'll also have some stitches put in to close the repair. In most cases, we use stitches that do not dissolve on their own, sometimes called permanent stitches, and we then take these out in seven to 10 days after the procedure. Once your stitches are out, you can go back to taking a bath or swimming normally. In most cases, I let my patients shower again and get their earlobes wet just 48 hours after their repair, even while they have stitches in. But I don't like people to submerge their earlobe repairs under water, like in a bath or in the pool until they're completely healed and after their stitches are out.
How do we do an earlobe repair?
So just to go into a little bit more depth in terms of how each of these procedures are performed. In the case of an earlobe that is stretched from a heavy piercing, what we'll usually end up doing is removing the tissue that creates the border around the piercing. So if you can almost imagine the piercing as the hole of a donut, we'll essentially shave off the part of the donut around the hole. So we leave a raw surface area that we can then suture to itself, and this will heal very nicely. In more severe cases of elongated earlobes, we may end up removing a wedge of the earlobe so that we can shorten the length of the earlobe so it no longer appears elongated.
This is also what we do in the case of earlobes that elongate from aging, and we often combine this procedure with a facelift. What we'll do here is we'll actually excise a wedge of the earlobe and put it back together in such a way as to hide the scar so that the length of the earlobe is reduced because a longer earlobe can actually be a subtle sign of facial aging. So earlobe repair, earlobe shortening procedures is actually a really nice subtle way to enhance the result of a facelift or also to give a nice anti-aging or rejuvenating effect, even as a standalone procedure for folks that have elongated or stretched earlobes.
In the case of a torn earlobe, where a piercing has been worn for so long, and it was so heavy that it actually tore through the bottom of the earlobe. In this case, what we end up doing is designing a wedge to excise the piercing hole itself, as well as the borders of the portion of the earlobe that the earing tore through. So again, we're creating a raw surface that can be sutured to itself so that we can reconstruct the border of the earlobe in a natural rounded shape.
In cases involving earlobe repair after gauge wearing, these are more complex cases because as we mentioned, they can lead to severe earlobe stretching and very large holes in the earlobes. So these can require some complex soft tissue rearrangement procedures, which really are a lot like jigsaw puzzles. We kind of look to see where we can create incisions and well-hidden scars to realign the pieces of the earlobe to put things back together in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Is earlobe repair expensive?
How much does earlobe repair cost? This is going to vary significantly by geography and by provider experience, as well as by the complexity of the case. I can tell you that in a New York city plastic surgery practice like mine, it's reasonable to expect to pay anywhere from 750 to $1,000 for a single earlobe repair, and anywhere from 1,500 to $2,000 for a bilateral earlobe repair or repairing both earlobes. This goes for kind of straightforward earlobe repair procedures.
When we're talking about how much gauge repair procedures costs, this can get a bit more pricey because these are a lot more time consuming and complex in terms of procedure design. But the good news here is that in the vast majority of cases, earlobes can be very effectively repaired and restored to their baseline aesthetic state.