Ear pinning is a type of otoplasty, surgery on the outer ear. It permanently draws ears closer to your head, minimizing ears that stick out and correcting imbalance or asymmetry. The procedure is usually performed by a plastic surgeon and involves general anesthesia. Recovery typically takes several weeks.
Ear pinning is plastic surgery to permanently bring your ears closer to your head. It’s an elective (optional) operation. A person might choose ear pinning to reduce the look of protruding ears and improve their appearance.
Ear pinning is a type of otoplasty — surgery to change the position, shape or size of your outer ear. Other types of otoplasty include surgery to:
The surgery is most common in children and teens, but some adults also choose to have the procedure.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
A plastic surgeon usually performs ear pinning with assistance from a team that may include:
Providers usually perform ear pinning in an outpatient surgical center.
When you’re considering otoplasty, you need to consult with a plastic surgeon. At the appointment, you’ll discuss:
The surgeon will:
Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions about how to prepare for ear pinning. In the days before surgery, you may have to:
The entire procedure takes about two hours. You’ll most likely receive general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep so you don’t feel anything. The healthcare team:
To perform ear pinning, the plastic surgeon:
After surgery, you slowly wake up from anesthesia. Your ears may feel uncomfortable, such as throbbing or itchy. You’ll receive medication to help manage the pain.
A healthcare provider removes the IV and tube in your throat. Your throat may feel sore for a little while afterward. You may feel drowsy or nauseated from the anesthesia.
It’s important to leave the ear bandages in place. They protect the wounds and help ensure the surgery achieves the desired effects.
Most people stay in a recovery room for a few hours after ear pinning. Healthcare providers will make sure you’re alert, breathing well and stable before you’re allowed to go home. You should have someone else drive you home so you can fully recover from the anesthesia.
Ear pinning can create a more natural, symmetrical or balanced appearance. The cosmetic benefits can improve self-esteem and psychological well-being.
Any scars are small and hidden, usually behind your ears.
Ear pinning is generally safe. But as with any surgery, there are risks of complications, including:
Your healthcare provider will talk to you about the recovery process. You may feel swollen, itchy or numb for a few days or weeks. Those symptoms usually go away with time.
Ear pinning bandages usually stay on for about a week. After that, you’ll be able to gently wash your face, ears and hair. Your surgeon will tell you how to care for the incisions and may recommend an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. You may need a supportive, flexible headband to hold your ears in place for a few weeks, especially when you’re sleeping.
Most people fully recover in four to six weeks after ear pinning. Until your surgeon says it’s OK, you should avoid:
Ear pinning involves some pain, as does any surgery. But your healthcare team will talk to you about ways to reduce and manage pain.
If you notice any signs of complications, call your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ear pinning is an operation that permanently brings your ears closer to your head. If you want to correct protruding ears or asymmetry between your ears, talk to a plastic surgeon. They’ll help you understand the risks and benefits of surgery. Ear pinning can improve your appearance, self-esteem and psychological well-being.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/01/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.