Ear Gauging (stretching) Repair

Ear gauging repair is offered at our convenient location in New Jersey

Female with heart shaped gauge in earlobe

The most common form of ear gauging involves creating a hole within the earlobe, similar to an ear piercing, and continually stretching it using sequential spacers or gauges to slowly expand the tissue. The process can proceed to create holes holes within in the earlobe ranging from a few millimetres to several cementers. The process is actually similar to surgical procedures of tissue expansion which are used to stretch tissue in order to cover a surgically created wound after excision of tissue. In Western culture, ear gauging began in the 1980s, as a trend along with an upsurge of non-traditional piercings. At that time, such piercings were mostly associated with the “goth” and “punk” lifestyles. However, Since that time, ear gauging has become a rather common and mainstream practice.

History of Ear Gauging

References to ear gauging can be found in individuals dating as early as 3300 BC. In 1991, “Otzi the Iceman” was found in a glacier in the Italian Alps by two hikers. The mummified remains were discovered to contain earlobes stretched to the equivalent of 7-11 mm gauges. To this day, Otzi remains the earliest example of ear gauging practices, although research is inconclusive as to what role ear stretching symbolized during the European Chalcolithic era. Later, in what we consider “ancient” civilizations, Mayan, Olmec, and Aztec cultures were noted to have idolized ear stretching, using the procedure to indicate higher social status or enhanced sexual appeal.

Some ear spacers were historically used post-mortem to invite pleasant spirits into the bodies of those who possessed more earthly resources. On the negative side, including these plugs in their coffins enabled ancient Mesopotamia to become fraught with grave-robbers looking for the Mayan’s historically jade, alabaster, ceramic, and gold spacers.

Indigenous African tribes have also been known to attribute the ritualistic custom of ear stretching with female fertility, religion-based ideals, wisdom, and as a sign of beauty in older, and sometimes married, women. These indigenous people use heavy brass weights to stretch the earlobes. The focus is not on the diameter of the gauge, but on the length that the ear hung.

Methods of Ear Gauging

The first step of the ear stretching process is simply to go get the ears pierced. For comparison, regular ear piercing kiosks in malls and tattoo parlors use piercing guns, which will pierce with a 20 gauge producing a .8 mm hole. Areas such as cartilage, septums, navels, and noses are pierced using a 14 gauge, producing a 1.6 mm hole. As the gauge number decreases, the size of the actual hole increases. The most common sizes decrease in even increments all the way down to 00. The 00 size represents a 10 mm hole. The 0 gauge size is referred to as the “point of no return”. At this gauge, even when the earlobes shrink, they will not return to their original size but rather will only shrink to a smaller gauge size.

In order to achieve the “gauged” result more rapidly a procedure called dermal punching can be performed. Dermal punching creates a similar gauged result in seconds by effectively excising a circle of tissue within the earlobe or cartilage of the ear. Dermal punching carries with it a significantly higher risk of bleeding, scarring, and infection than traditional stretching. Although it takes considerably longer to achieve a similar diameter, working the earlobe slowly up to the desired size is a much safer option.

The process of ear stretching takes considerably longer than dermal punching because each taper size increase requires at least six weeks to properly heal. If a taper is placed and the skin turns white, this is a result of a compression of the blood flow and is a clue that the taper is slightly too large. Other stretching side effects may include redness and swelling. Even properly performed stretching may result in itching, swelling, and throbbing pain. Daily moisturizing with a lubricant like jojoba oil, along with gentle massaging are typically performed to help the process.

Non Surgical Gauged Ear Lobe Correction

Earlobes that are stretched to no larger than an 0 gauge may shrink back to a somewhat normal size over an extended period of time up to a year. Sometimes a reverse gauging process can be performed sequentially decreasing the size of the gauges until the hole reduced in size at which point is can be left without a gauge.

In the event that gauges are removed and the earlobes are allowed to heal for a year span, a normal appearance can be achieved without a surgical procedure. It should be noted that this complete non-surgical healing process has only seen results up to a gauge of six millimeters. Any earlobes gauges exceeding six millimeters require a surgical repair to return to normal configuration.

For those whose earlobes will not close completely or continue to hang low, surgical repair is required.

Surgical Correction of Stretched Earlobes – Vanish Plastic Surgery Center NJ

Surgical correction of stretched earlobes requires removal and reconstruction of the earlobe tissues to create a natural looking earlobe. Each earlobe repair is unique and requires a comprehensive knowledge of plastic surgery techniques as well as ear anatomy. A reconstructive plan is determined based on the size, shape, and location of the hole.

Repair Method 1

Repair Method 2

The earlobe reconstruction procedure is performed using sterile technique. To begin, a small amount of local anesthesia is given to numb the area. Once numb, the planned reconstructive procedure is performed. Resorbable sutures are placed in the deep tissues to reposition the structural elements of the earlobe and non-resorbable sutures are placed in the skin of the earlobe, on the front and back, in order to re-approximate the tissue edges. The procedure takes from 30-45 minutes depending on the complexity of the initial earlobe hole.

Following the surgery, the patient can drive home and no formal downtime is required. Some patients even return to normal activities a few hours after after the procedure. However, strenuous activity and exercise is limited for the first post-operative week. This limitation is required to avoid any bleeding or swelling that could compromise the appearance of the surgical repair, as well as minimizing the risk of infection from sweating and subsequent bacteria seeping into the wound. Pain after the procedure is typically mild and commonly described as “just some soreness”. Mild pain is controlled with ibuprofen. There may also be a minor degree of swelling and bruising, but this is usually mild.

The patient needs to make sure that proper sanitary measures are taken to ensure the surgical site is kept devoid of potential sources of infection; this includes regularly cleaning the lobes and applying antibiotic ointment and/or a band-aid as instructed.

After approximately 7-10 days, a post-operative visit will occur. At that time, the earlobe repair will be evaluated by the surgeon and the surface sutures are usually removed. After a period of approximately six weeks, a complete healing can be appreciated.

Trying to re-stretch the healed earlobes after repair could result in a full tear of the earlobe, but normal ear piercing is acceptable and can occur at the time of the initial surgical repair.

Surgical repair of stretched earlobes is a relatively minor procedure that can provide significant cosmetic improvements of a stretched earlobe when the patient no longer desires to have the “gauged” look.