Dr. Adam Hamawy has spent a lot of time studying earlobes. And the Princeton, NJ plastic surgeon says what he’s noticed about those often forgotten facial features isn’t pretty. For people young and old alike, bad earlobes can be big problems. And increasingly, people are paying big bucks to have those problems fixed.
We often don’t notice, but getting older pulls our lobes down to earth. “It’s gravity,” Hamawy explains. “As we age a few things happen. We tend to lose fat from certain areas and gain it from others. A young earlobe is full and vibrant. As fat shrinks from an old earlobe it loses elasticity and tends to wrinkle up and sag.”
Poor sagging earlobes. When they were young and full of spring, no one noticed. And they’re only in the spotlight now because they’re not attractive. And that’s why Hamawy often finds himself throwing in an earlobe tuck along with that facelift.
“It’s overlooked until you start paying attention,” Hamawy says of sagging earlobes. “Once you’re fixated on it, the only thing you’re looking at in the mirror are your earlobes.”
It only takes a few minutes to add earlobe rejuvenation to a facial plastic surgery procedure. There haven’t been any national studies or stat-keeping saying earlobe surgery on the rise. But after ear reduction surgery was featured plot on a recent Keeping up With The Kardashians episode, plastic surgeons reported an uptick in interest in the procedure anecdotally.
About 80 percent of Hamawy’s ear work is old earlobes, but there’s another 20 percent that’s something quite different: Kids with big ears that stick out. They’re absolute red flags for bullies. Even Barack Obama, a person of historic magnetism and charisma, couldn’t keep kids from teasing him for his big ears.
“Kids are cruel, they don’t pull punches,” Hamawy said.
Which is not to say you can’t be successful with big ears. It certainly didn’t hurt President Barack Obama’s prospects, Hamawy points out. And if your kid isn’t being tormented for his big ears, by all means, let it go.
But for some kids, Hamawy says, the bullying is crippling. A 2016 Canadian school shooter claimed he killed his classmates in retaliation for teasing his ears. Children as young as six have sought ear reduction surgery.
Ears stick out because they lack the critical bend in the cartilage that prevents the ear from popping out from the side of your head. Hamawy creates that fold by cutting the cartilage. The procedure usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half and about a week to heal with a bandage. With no contact sports allowed for two months after the surgery, most kids undergo the surgery during the summer.
And how about when they return to school in the fall?
“It’s usually not noticed, especially if you do it during the summer,” Hamawy said.
The bullying just stops. Not a bad result for the price tag of $7,000 to $8,000 for both ears (Insurance almost never covers the cost.)
Most kids have the surgery done between the ages of 7 and 12. Hamawy sees another spike for the procedure among young adults, ages 20 to 25.
“They’re working, making money, and it’s clearly bothering them, not anybody else,” Hamawy said. “I tell them, ‘fix it, it’s for yourself, something you’re thinking about every day. Let’s do it.’”
Hamawy rejects the notion that plastic surgery, for kids or adults, is pure vanity.
“Yes, we’re in the business of making people look better, but the true goal is to feel better,” he says. “That’s how we help people.”