Stretched or torn earlobes? There’s a surgery for that
Stretched earlobes don’t have to be forever — a plastic surgeon can reshape your earlobe with a relatively simple procedure.
Ear stretching, sometimes called gauging, refers to intentionally widening out a piercing, sometimes to create a dramatic hole in the earlobe. It has been practiced by various cultures since ancient times. King Tutankhamun had gauged ears and so did Ötzi the Iceman, who died around 3300 BC, making him the oldest mummy discovered so far.
In the United States, ear stretching gained popularity in the late 20th century, mostly with young people.
Today, MultiCare surgeon Joseph Shvidler, MD, says earlobe repair is one of the most common requests he gets.
And it’s not just intentional stretching that brings patients in for repair. Sometimes regular ear piercings can stretch or even tear through the entire lobe because of heavy earrings.
Whatever the cause, earlobes can be mended.
Dr. Shvidler and fellow surgeon Christine Puig, MD, say they each perform 1-2 earlobe repairs each month with excellent results.
“The success of surgery depends on the amount of earlobe tissue that remains, but usually we can make the earlobe look natural,” Dr. Shvidler says. “Although the earlobes may look smaller, this may make the overall appearance of an ear look more youthful.”
Surgery is done with local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes per ear. If you need both ears repaired, both can be done in a single surgery. After a week of healing, sutures are removed.
Because it is a cosmetic procedure, insurance doesn’t cover it. You’ll pay out of pocket anywhere from $300-$500 for a single, simple repair of a slightly stretched piercing to about $1,600 for two gauged earlobes.
If you want to re-pierce your ears, “We usually recommend piercing in about three months after surgery to allow for adequate healing,” Dr. Shvidler says.
Dr. Puig recommends six months healing.
Don’t expect to be able to re-stretch your earlobes after repair.
“I do not repair an earlobe so it can be stretched again,” Dr. Puig says. “They can only take so much stretching in their lifetime.”
About The Author
Cheryl Reid-Simons is a freelance writer and serial community volunteer. In her spare time, she drives a private activities shuttle for her twin sons, healthy graduates of the Tacoma General NICU and interim care nursery. More stories by this author