Increasingly these days, sad stories about bullied children make the news. The struggle is indeed real, as online bullying has catapulted peer conflicts into a hugely populated arena in the 21st century. Children and teens are bullied for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is physical appearance. And while methods for helping bullied kids abound, an emerging solution--plastic surgery--may permanently resolve bullying for one appearance-related issue: overly large ears.

Scope of the problem

The National Bullying Prevention Center has compiled startling statistics about the scope of bullying in the United States today.

  • One out of four students experience bullying, but 64% of victims do not report it.
  • While victims' looks are the most common target for harassment, bullies also aim for areas such as body shape and race.
  • Nearly all (90%) of kids who are being cyberbullied go through it in person as well.
  • Bullying is linked to health problems, such as stomach problems and headaches, among victims.
  • Anxiety, depression, and sleep problems afflict bullying victims.
  • Bullying victims are 2.4 times more likely to think about suicide, and 3.3 times more likely to attempt it, than those children who are not bullied.

Specific to ear abnormalities, big ears are no little problem; even President Obama was teased for the shape of his ears. Bullying for this particular problem has led to tragic events. One 17-year-old boy in Canada went on a shooting rampage at his school, killing four people and injuring seven, because they had teased him about the size of his ears. A woman in Turkey even strangled her own son, thinking it would spare him unending bullying.

Surgery solution

For children born with large ears, a cosmetic surgery procedure called otoplasty can restore normal appearance and prevent further bullying. Although sometimes plastic surgeries are frowned upon for minors, there are many reasons why this particular procedure is a good choice for children:

  • The procedure is relatively short, lasting about two hours.
  • Recovery is usually brief and uncomplicated.
  • Because the ears finish growing by age five, further surgical adjustments are unnecessary.

The surgery has a high success rate; in fact, a 2009 study found that 97% of otoplasty patients reported feeling happier, 92% reported an increase in self-confidence, and all reported either an end to or great reduction in incidents of bullying.

If your child is being bullied because of large ears--at school, in the neighborhood, or online--talk with his/her pediatrician about the possibility of otoplasty.

For more information, talk with plastic surgeons, such as those at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Cincinnati, directly.