Background: The face ages overall by loss of volume and tissue sag. This appears in a variety of ways from facial soft tissues falling downward, tissues thinning and the development of skin wrinkles. The ear, like the face, ages as well with many of the same physical findings. The earlobe is unique, however, in that it is exposed to the wear and tear of decorative use from a variety of ear rings and posts. Thus the earlobe will change with age due to gravity and stretching, which may be more often seen in women.
As the earlobe ages, it is well known to become elongated often becoming up to 50% longer than it’s original vertical length. It does so because it is the only part of the ear that has no cartilage support. The earlobe is just skin and fat and is prone to loss of elasticity with its fat infrastructure offering little resistance.
The earlobe, like the rest of the face, can also suffer volume loss through fat atrophy. This can make the earlobe look thin and withered. This makes it prone to develop skin wrinkles as well as due to the loss of the skin’s elasticity.
Case Study: This 65 year-old female had undergone numerous facial rejuvenation procedures in the past five years including a browlift, blepharoplasties and a facelift in separate procedures. While she was pleased with her improved facial appearance, she felt that the appearance of her ears did match that of her face. She felt her earlobes were wrinkly and old-looking. Her earlobes were not excessively long but they were thin with multiple fkin folds in them.
Under local anesthesia, her earlobes underwent a wedge resection procedure. In the middle portion of her earlobes using the two skin folds that existed, a full-thickness wedge of earlobe was removed. The earlobes were put back together, creating a smaller and more plump earlobe that had no wrinkles or skin folds. No dressings were used and only antibiotic ointment was applied to the suture lines.
Her sutures were removed one week later and the earlobes went on to heal without any problems. She had her ears pierced six weeks after the surgery.
Earlobe rejuvenation is done through a lifting technique by removing a central wedge of ‘extra’ tissue. This shortens and tightens the earlobe. In most aging earlobe patients, the shortening effect is critical because the earlobe is already too long. But even if it isn’t, a smaller earlobe that is more plump and better shaped is more aesthetically pleasing.
Ears age primarily by changes in the earlobe, becoming thinner, longer and developing wrinkles.
Ear rejuvenation consists of earlobe reshaping by reduction and tightening.
Earlobe lifts can be done as a stand alone procedure or as part of facelift surgery.
Dr. Barry Eppley