How to Protect your Ear Lobe from Splitting, Including One Not-So-Obvious Cause

By on November 4, 2016 under Plastic Surgery

Hello, Boston plastic surgeon Dr. Hall here. I have seen two patients with torn earlobes in the last two days who both have a similar story, and it prompted me to write this blog.  Both had had pierced ears for years, and both told me they had experienced a gradual tearing of their ear lobe. They had both had their cleft ear lobes repaired elsewhere, and both had experienced the gradual development of a complete cleft a second time.

Repairing a cleft ear lobe is a common procedure that I commonly perform in the office. It takes under an hour and is done with local anesthesia. I typically re-pierce the ears three months later.  However, repairing the cleft doesn’t make the ear lobe any stronger or less likely to split again if subjected to the same forces.  So, it is important to try and understand why the split happened in the first place so our patients can prevent it from happening again.

An obvious cause is big hoops getting caught or heavy earrings that slowly pull their way through the ear lobe.  But that was not the case with my two patients, who both wore studs.  Another cause is catching the earring frequently on the phone, with little tears eventually leading to a split.  But not the cause here.

We are taught in medical school that 90% of diagnoses can be made with a careful history and physical.  On examination, both patients had a relatively short ear lobe and on questioning, the split was on the side that they slept on.  I have seen this before as a cause of a cleft ear.  When sleeping, the post of the stud can catch on the pillow and lever against the cartilage of the ear, back and forth across the ear lobe like a wire cutting through a block of cheese, leading to a split of the ear lobe.  The solution: remove the studs while sleeping.  I think that women with short ear lobes may be more prone to this cause of splitting because the shorter lobe is closer to the ear cartilage and may allow more leverage.

So there you have it: if you are prone to this, consider removing your studs while sleeping, especially if the earrings are large or the earlobes are relatively short.

If you are located in the Boston area and are interested in earlobe repair, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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