Under the colloquial term of the sail ears , also called protruding ears , medical professionals understand a malformation of the ears. These are clearly visible from the head to an extent that does not correspond to the norm. This does not affect hearing, however.
What are sail ears?
Under the colloquial term “sail ears”, medical professionals understand a malformation of the ears.
Protruding ears or tail ears indicate a malformation of the auricle. Officially, sail ears are present if the distance between one or both auricles and the head is more than 2 cm. A protrusion of the auricles at an angle of more than 30 ° is also considered medically as sail ears.
Experts speak of a dysplasia (malformation) of the 1st degree. The hearing ability or the sense of balance of the person concerned is not impaired by the protruding ears; under certain circumstances, however, there may be psychological stress due to the clear visual characteristics. Treatment of the cusps’ ears is only possible by surgery.
The immediate causes of protruding ears are either an inadequate formation of the anthelix (the main fold of the auricle) or an auricle that is generally too large. In some cases, there is a combination of both factors.
The malformation occurs due to genetic conditions that are passed on from parents to their children. If a family has already suffered multiple sail ears, there is a relatively high probability that newborn children will also be affected. However, protruding ears are not always inherited in the same way. The exact reasons for the occurrence of the malformation are not yet known.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
The complaints and symptoms of sail ears are usually relatively clear and easy to recognize. Those affected suffer from protruding ears and thus often from reduced aesthetics. In many cases, the ears lead to psychological complaints or moods and also to depression .
However, this disease does not have a negative effect on the hearing ability of the person concerned, so that it is not limited by it. In addition to the ears, patients often suffer from other malformations of the ears or, in general, of the head. The sail ears can, however, also appear as the sole malformation. Especially at a young age, the aesthetic limitations can lead to a reduced self-esteem or to inferiority complexes .
The complaint itself occurs in most cases since birth, but it can also be acquired or only show up in old age. Since the ears do not have a negative impact on the hearing ability of the person affected, they do not need to be treated. However, surgical interventions are advisable if the ears lead to severe depression or other psychological impairments. Above all, bullying and teasing occur in childhood and can significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected.
Diagnosis & course
In the case of sail ears, the attending physician can often make a diagnosis on the basis of mere optics. To support the diagnosis, measurements can be carried out that can confirm the presence of a malformation.
Either the angle between the auricle and the head is measured (this should be between 20 and 30 °) or, alternatively, the distance between the auricle and the head. If this measurement results in a distance of more than 2 cm, according to the medical definition there are sail ears. Basically, protruding ears are harmless and have an impact on the hearing ability or the physical health of the person concerned.
Since teasing can occur, especially in childhood, psychological problems such as inferiority complexes or even depression can arise. For this reason, surgical treatment is often considered.
There are no medical complications with protruding ears. People who have protruding ears do not have to reckon with further complaints or problems, as the sail ears are harmless to the human body. The existing ears also do not impair or improve hearing.
Most of the problems are usually caused by the unaesthetic appearance. In many cases, the patient is ashamed of the protruding ears, which leads to decreased self-esteem . This can also lead to depression and other psychological problems that need to be treated by a psychologist . Teasing and bullying occur here, especially among children and adolescents, which can lead to major problems.
The protruding ears can be treated with a surgical procedure. This procedure is covered by the health insurance company if the child is under 14 years of age. There are no complications during the operation. It is only associated with the usual risk of anesthesia or inflammation of the scar.
However, this risk is very low with a local anesthetic . Whether or not the ears will stick out again in adulthood cannot be predicted. In most cases, however, the operation is successful and the ears do not change their shape in the course of life.
When should you go to the doctor?
Of course, protruding ears are not a clinical picture, but simply a misalignment of the ears. Medical treatment is not necessary, because with protruding ears no problems or complications are to be expected in the distant future. The situation is different, however, if the person concerned suffers psychologically from the protruding ears. In such a case, there are two options: The affected person with the protruding ears can seek psychological treatment or have their ears closed by an operation.
If a visit to a doctor is not taken in spite of psychological stress, the person concerned is taking a risk. The stress increases over time, so that under certain circumstances it can even lead to depression. The following applies: With protruding ears you don’t have to go to a doctor. A doctor should only be consulted if the protruding ears are psychologically stressful for the person. This is the only way to identify further complications associated with protruding ears at an early stage and treat them accordingly.
Treatment & Therapy
Protruding ears can only be treated surgically; one speaks of the so-called “big ears” (called otopexy in technical terms). A not infrequently attempted early childhood “gluing” or “tying” the ears does not show the desired success.
Surgical interventions, on the other hand, generally show good results. Usually, the operation is already performed in childhood in order to protect the person concerned from teasing as early as possible. There are various surgical techniques, most of which are carried out from the back of the auricle. The procedures take place under general anesthesia (local anesthesia may also be possible for adults).
With the thread method, the auricle is fixed with permanent plastic threads. Usually, however, the ear cartilage is exposed and then brought into a position that corresponds to the optical standard. After the surgical procedure, the person concerned has to wear a tight head bandage for a period of about two weeks. If the operation is performed on children under the age of 14, the health insurance companies will in most cases cover the costs of the operation.
Under certain circumstances, the ears protrude again in adulthood, which would require a new operation. However, if the operation is carried out correctly and there are no complications, the big ears will be successful in most cases.
Outlook & forecast
Protruding ears are not a clinical picture, just a small misalignment of the ears. Even if this deformity remains without any treatment, no problems or complications are to be expected.
However, once the ears have been put on, an accurate outlook and prognosis are difficult. In the later healing process there may be complications that have to be assessed by a doctor. Since some of the wounds are open , they should be kept clean and pure at all times. Otherwise there is a risk of ignition .
Inflammation makes the prospect of a quick and rapid healing much more difficult. Anyone who recognizes the first signs of inflammation should therefore consult a doctor very quickly. He can take action against inflammation with appropriate medication. This quickly inhibits it and prevents possible blood poisoning .
Thus: protruding ears do not need to be treated by a doctor. However, affected persons can suffer from psychological stress that requires medical treatment. Alternatively, the ears can be surgically created. The prognosis for a successful treatment is good. Under certain circumstances, however, inflammation can occur, which must be treated accordingly.
Since protruding ears are genetic and inherited, prevention is not possible. Only a subsequent surgical treatment can be carried out. Sail ears are an optical problem for many of those affected; but they do not endanger health or hearing. Whether treatment should take place is therefore entirely at the discretion of the person concerned or their parents. Many people stand by their protruding ears and do not experience any impairment in their daily life as a result.
After an operation there is no need for follow-up care. A recurrence of the protruding ears is impossible. New complaints are also not to be expected. Since therapy is usually carried out for aesthetic reasons, the primary cause of the disease, the psychological stress, disappears completely after the removal of the sail ears.
Follow-up care therefore falls into the weeks following a surgical procedure. Doctors check whether the healing is successful. A head bandage is usually worn for the first week. For the following month, a headband will protect your ears. The stitches may need to be pulled, which is often the most important appointment with a doctor. In order to prevent the wounds from tearing open, sport should be avoided at first. The briefing of a doctor explicitly indicates this.
In the case of less pronounced sail ears, those affected sometimes deliberately forego surgical intervention. Since protruding ears, unlike some animals, do not cause problems with perception, such a decision can be quite useful. Doctors can prescribe therapy and thus increase the self-confidence of their patients. Children and adults receive the necessary support, which they usually do not find enough in their social environment.
You can do that yourself
Protruding ears are usually a purely cosmetic problem. The most effective method is surgery, in which the ears are placed against the scalp as part of an operation. Alternatively or in addition to this, sail ears can be treated or at least concealed with a few tricks and home remedies.
So protruding ears can be covered well by long hair or a headband. If the tail ears are noticed in infancy, the wrap method promises improvement. A kind of gauze bandage is wrapped around the baby’s head as regularly as possible – but without affecting the baby . For a short time, the ears can be glued on with the help of plasters or adhesive tape. In the long term, however, protruding ears can only be repaired through surgical measures or the so-called thread method, in which the ears are tied under local anesthesia.
It is therefore advisable to accept the physical characteristics and to strengthen self-confidence in children with big ears . If the protruding ears have already led to psychological problems, a therapist should be spoken to. Anyone who suffers from protruding ears and exclusion should think about a change of environment.