The ear is one of the most overlooked aspects of facial aesthetics, which makes sense, given that the ears are not “technically” on the face. Regardless, the ears do impact facial appearance in more ways than we think.
The ideal ear should project at a maximum of 15-20mm from the head. Angular projection should be around 20° from a side view. The width to height ratio of the ear should be about 0.6. Ear height must be approximately the same height as the midface.
Though the ears’ aesthetic value is not always obvious, there are certain situations when the ears tiptoe the line between attractive and just passable. Sure, they seem easy to ignore when you’ve got normal ears that hide behind your hair or seem to complement your face. The vast majority of the time, the ears are not something that we need to focus on, and we even overlook that they’re there sometimes. But the ear’s effect on physical appearance compounds when you’re looking at a very abnormal ear. In a way, it’s like the nose.
Take, for example, someone with exceptional features with excellent eyes and a striking jawline. Of course, that person will look conventionally attractive to our eyes. However, a significant caveat is that if this person has abnormally large ears, he will start to look comical. Now, that person’s odd-looking ears will overshadow whatever amazing features they have. They’ll forever be someone who would look attractive if it weren’t for their ears.
Many people even come to grow insecure about their ears if they jut out of place. In elementary school, people even come up with names for kids with prominent ears like monkey ears or bat ears. All of these can cause significant blows to self-esteem that will trickle into adulthood.
When we think about ears, we don’t place a lot of stress on them in the lens of facial attractiveness. But the truth is, our ears also have aesthetic standards that can make or break your appearance.
Table of Contents
- Ear Anatomy
- Ideal Ears
- Long Axis Angle
- Ear Prominence (Lateral Projection)
- Distance From Head
- Helix-Mastoid Angle
- Auriculocephalic Angle
- The Rule of Fifths
- Bilateral Symmetry
- Issues With Ear Aesthetics
- Celebrity Ear Analysis
- How to Get Ideal Ears
- Ears Too Flat on the Head
- How to Fix Prominent Ears Without Surgery
When people discuss ears in terms of aesthetics and attractiveness, they usually refer to the external ear or the auricles. These are the parts of the ear that you can see from the outside and are the parts that contribute directly to facial appearance. Understanding the details of ear anatomy is crucial. You will need to know each part’s ideal location to determine how ideal your ears are or what changes you will need to make to achieve ideal ears. Here are the essential elements of the ear that are relevant to ear aesthetics.
The helix is the outermost part of the ear. If you pinch this area, it will feel tough and give your ear its shape. The helix is probably the most important part of the ear aesthetics-wise, as you need the helix to be in a proper position to get ideal ears. Yes, the other parts of the ear need to be in a particular position, but most of the emphasis is on the helix as it is the most prominent part of the ear.
The antihelix is parallel to the middle portion of the helix. If you bring your finger to the tip of your helix and go down the fold, you’ll notice it expand and become more pronounced. In the middle part of the ear, the helix and antihelix are parallel to each other, and they form a little crease in the ear.
The antihelix is an essential aspect of ear anatomy because it should be prominent if you want ideal ears. In an ideal situation, both the helix and the antihelix would be visible from a frontal view. If only the helix shows up, that could indicate that the ear is way too flat on the head. If the helix isn’t visible, but the antihelix is, there is a high chance that the ear exhibits a telephone-like appearance known as telephone ears. Neither of these two are situations that you want to be in, so never forget to take the antihelix into careful consideration.
3. Superior Crus of the Antihelix
The superior crus of the antihelix is the area right above the antihelix. It’s the sizable free space at the top portion of your ear. Like the helix, this area is relevant to ear aesthetics because you want it to be visible, but you don’t want it to jut out too much. In a frontal view, a person looking at you should be able to see a little bit of the superior crus, but not the entire space in itself.
4. Antihelical Fold
The antihelical fold is crucial, especially when determining the ideal ear. If you plan on getting an otoplasty for your ears, one of the procedure’s goals is to create a smooth antihelical fold. A good-looking antihelical fold facilitates the appearance of cohesion of your ear aesthetics. If post-op, the antihelical fold does not look good, your ears will end up looking plastered down, and it will not look natural.
5. Ear Lobe (Lobule)
Next, what about the earlobe? There are two general types of earlobes: attached and hanging. Both of these can be ideal, and it doesn’t matter if they are attached or not. However, you don’t want earlobes that hang excessively low, making it look like it takes up more than a third of your entire ear. Likewise, you don’t want an earlobe that’s too small. One of the best things about the ear lobe is that covering up problematic earlobes is easy with some strategically placed earrings.
First, let me point out that ears are unique because there’s a lot of room for variation with size, projection, position, and the angle that the ear projects out of the head. Unlike other facial features with distinct measurements determining what’s ideal and what isn’t, ears give you much more wiggle room to be less than perfect. Of course, this could be because ears are not that noticeable compared to your eyes or jaw, for example. Plus, ears are more or less uniform across ethnicities worldwide, which sets them apart from other features such as the eyes or the nose. However, one thing to note is that women are more likely to have rounder ears than men, meaning that women will have a larger width to height ratio.
If you don’t fit into the following requirements for ideal ears, don’t worry too much. As I just said, a lot of variation is well within the threshold of acceptable when it comes to ear aesthetics. That said, there are still some important considerations that you can take into account regarding your ear aesthetics.
Ideally, the width of the ear should be 60% of its height. A range of 50-65% is acceptable as well. This means that the ideal width to height ratio is .6. The tragus of the ear (the little nub at the ear opening) should be at the midpoint of the ear’s entire length. It helps to section out the ear into three parts. The bottom section consists entirely of the earlobe, the middle part consists mostly of the ear opening (the tragus is here as well), and the uppermost part is the vertical tip of the helix down to where it attaches to the head. If you have ears that you can section out reasonably in this manner, they’re most likely well-proportioned.
Note that these proportions are not relative to the face or any other facial feature. These proportions are simply for the ear itself. The proportion of ear size and position is a different story entirely. In many cases, the individual proportion of the ear does not matter very much. At least, it’s not as crucial as the relative proportion of the ear and its projection to the face.
Again, the perfect ear size is relative. The first consideration for size is, of course, the size of your head. Your regularly sized-ears matter little when they look small compared to your head and vice versa. With ears, the value of proportions is even more important than just the number or the measurements of the ears themselves. Although there are measurements that we will get to in a bit, make sure to take them with a grain of salt as there are plenty of other factors to consider.
That said, the ear’s ideal size is 55-75mm long and 30-45mm wide. The average ear height is around 65mm, and the average ear height is 35mm. If you fit within that range, there’s not much to worry about. Chances are, your ear is the right size for your head. And even if you don’t fit into that range, there are still other ways you can make up for the aesthetic discrepancy.
When it comes to shape, there isn’t much in terms of standards of ear aesthetics. For the most part, all it will take is a normal curved ear shape, and you will look fine. However, like many aspects of the ear, particular mishaps make your ear shape look unattractive.
Having telephone ears is a prime example of this. To understand what telephone ears look like, let’s backtrack a little bit to discuss how we can separate the ears into three sections. You’ll know if you have telephone ears when the middle third of your ear looks indented. Usually, telephone ears happen because of mistakes due to an ear correction, so that’s something that you have to consider if you plan on getting an otoplasty. Regardless, it could still occur naturally.
Telephone ears happen after otoplasty because the surgeon may sometimes pin the ear back too much. This excessive pinning then causes the ear to lose its natural shape. Instead of a nice and smooth curve, the ear will now resemble something of a landline telephone, hence, the name. So, unless you want your ear’s inner workings to show up, telephone ears will look unattractive on you.
In terms of position, you want ears that are the same length as your midface. Meaning, you’ll want the top part of the helix to be in line with your eyebrows and your earlobe to be in line with the bottom area of your nose. A couple of centimeters discrepancy won’t be devastating to your appearance, but you generally want to stay within that range.
For the sagittal view, your ears should be an ear length behind the end of your brows. This distance helps keep the ear reasonably sized from a frontal perspective. If your ears are too far back, it could make them look disproportional to the rest of your facial appearance.
Long Axis Angle
The ear’s long axis is a line that passes through the longest dimension of the ear. You need to make this analysis on a true vertical plane, so ensure you are capturing your profile as accurately as possible.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
1. Take a photo of your ears (side view), make sure you are in the proper posture, and look straight ahead.
2. Draw a vertical line where your ear meets the side of your head. Note that you should draw the line on the plane where the top of the ear attaches to the head and not the earlobe area.
Ideally, you want your ears to recline around 15-20° from the vertical line you just drew. Your ears should not be completely parallel to the side of your head. Although this position rarely matters when it comes to full-frontal appearance, it does play a bit of a role in ear prominence. If you have the proper angles of position on your ears, you’re more likely to mitigate the effects of overly prominent ears. An aesthetically pleasing long axis should be parallel to the nose bridge or at least pretty close to parallel.
Ear Prominence (Lateral Projection)
Ear prominence is the looming factor of ear aesthetics that can genuinely make or break facial attractiveness. Unlike the previously discussed aspects of ear aesthetics, ear prominence is where everything becomes magnified and blown out of proportion.
For example, an ear that looks a tad too large should look okay and be barely noticeable. The same thing is true for ears that are too small. On the other hand, ears that are regular sized but stick out too much look jarring and pulls the viewer’s attention away from other facial features. Because prominence is so important, even minor discrepancies in terms of size and shape will look unattractive.
It’s easier to visualize this in photos. Notice in the following images how getting their ears pinned back made noticeable changes to their appearance.
Distance From Head
Ideally, you want ears that are most prominent at the midpoint of your ear. From a rearview, the distance from the most prominent part of the helix to the head’s side should be at a minimum of 15mm. However, you can go as high as 20mm.
Anything more than that will start to look excessively protruded.
At the tip of your helix, the distance should be considerably less, at 10-15mm. Of course, this distance should also match the distance between the midpoint helix and the head’s side. It is much better if the helical tip protrudes less than the middle of the helix.
From a posterior position, you can see the helix-mastoid angle. It should be about 20° from the side of the head. The higher your helix-mastoid angle is, the more prominent your ears will look.
You can determine your auriculocephalic angle from a top view, which you can see in the image above. Ideally, you want your auriculocephalic angle to be 25-35°. If your ears are less than ideal or too close to your head, you have an acute auriculocephalic angle.
All of these measurements facilitate lateral ear projection. Despite that, each of them is more or less dependent on the others, and a good analysis will have to consider all of the measurements instead of just one.
The Rule of Fifths
If you are not familiar with the rule of fifths, it is a simple way to compartmentalize sections of the face to get the ideal proportions. While humans don’t anatomically fit into ideal fifths, it serves as an aesthetic standard.
Ear projection is critical in this aspect because the outer fifths of the face should run from the end of the eye to the ear’s helix. If your ears are too prominent, this will disrupt the compartmentalization of the face into fifths. The rule of fifths demonstrates that although your ears are not part of your face per see, they occupy a pretty sizable part of it. 2/5 of your facial appearance is already enough for one feature, and you definitely don’t want to go further than that.
Aside from relative position and individual position, size, and prominence, there is still one more general aspect of ear aesthetics: symmetry. One of the most important aspects of facial aesthetics is symmetry, and the ears are no exception to that rule. The asymmetrical nature of the ears means that your analysis of each ear should vary from each other and that there’s no one way to approach both ears. Asymmetrical ears can result from a combination of all the previously mentioned ear aesthetic issues on one ear or another.
There’s nothing wrong with having minor discrepancies between both of your ears. They both won’t be the same size, shape, position, etc. There’s an acceptable degree of asymmetry when it comes to aesthetics, and if the discrepancies are not too severe, some asymmetry is fine.
In analyzing how best to approach a particular person’s ears, it is essential to account for asymmetries. Bilateral symmetry is the goal. But the treatments for two different ears could be vastly different from each other, which further cements the idea that an in-depth analysis of each ear is necessary for the best results.
Issues With Ear Aesthetics
One of the leading causes of prominent ears is problems with antihelical development. Again, the antihelix is the area in the middle of the ear. If the antihelix does not develop fully, as in antihelical hypoplasia, the ear will not tuck back properly. Since the antihelix is instrumental in giving the ear its shape and structure, antihelical underdevelopment causes an irregular appearance.
High Concavity (Cavum Hyperplasia)
Cavum hyperplasia is the ear’s cavum’s overdevelopment, which is part of the concha near the ear opening. Contrary to hypoplasia, the overdevelopment of the cavum causes the ear to curve forward, creating a concave structure. The appearance of high concavity is very different from what antihelical hypoplasia does, but it still brings the ears forward and makes them more prominent. Excessive concavity is even less attractive than just plain protruding ears as it usually leads to a deformed-looking ear.
Of course, even if protruding ears are not an issue, asymmetry could diminish the ears’ aesthetics. For ear asymmetry, it could be a mix of the above issues or other developmental problems. Usually, asymmetrical ears are prevalent from birth unless they were due to trauma.
Celebrity Ear Analysis
In this media-driven age, celebrities are a focal point of physical attractiveness. We can’t deny that they can influence much of our perception of conventional notions of attractiveness. With that being said, some celebrities do have prominent ears and choose to pin them back, while some treat them as a unique feature that makes them look more “real.”
Celebrities With (Still) Prominent Ears
1. Jennifer Garner
Jennifer Garner has these slightly protruding ears that you can clearly see once she puts her hair up. Despite that, she hasn’t really made moves to fix her prominent ears.
2. Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson seems to be very nonchalant about her prominent ears. She’s the kind of person who can take her less-than-ideal ears and turn them into an asset. Although objectively, it will never actually be an asset, it does add to her personality and image.
3. Daniel Craig
Daniel, who we probably know best for his role as 007 in the James Bond franchise, has quite cartoonish ears despite the serious roles he plays. At this point, his ears have been a defining feature of his appearance, and he’s not likely to change that anytime soon.
4. Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde, who we know for her strong jawline and striking features, has a bit of a chink in the facial aesthetics department. Her ears jut out at a higher angle than normal, and they look too prominent at times.
But does anyone care? Not really.
5. Emma Watson
Emma Watson, with her demure appearance, also has ears that are too prominent. On her, though, some people find it endearing and cute. She takes her ear prominence in stride and often accessorizes with various ear cuffs to premieres and events.
Celebrities who had Otoplasty
1. Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt used to be one of the most attractive industry faces back when he was younger. Back then, though, his ears did stick out a tad bit more than ideal. Eventually, he got them pinned back, and now he’s aged excellently.
2. Ben Stiller (Rumored)
Though he hasn’t confirmed it, it’s pretty apparent that Ben Stiller had some work done on his ears. From clearly very prominent monkey ears, his ears now look much more swept back and no longer distract from his facial appearance too much.
3. Will Smith (rumored)
Will Smith probably has some of the most comical ears that we can see in Hollywood today. Ever since he was younger and just starting, one of Will Smith’s defining features was his ears. But what’s interesting about him is that there are rumors that he had otoplasty done but eventually reversed it since it didn’t look natural. Though this is all speculation, there are some photos that we can take a look at. In the photo comparison above, you can see that there seems to be a difference in his ear shape and prominence. Taken in 2013, the photo on the right definitely indicates an ear surgery.
Yet, in the next photo (taken in 2020), his ears look pretty much the same as they did when he was younger. Still, the photos are not enough proof, and Will Smith has not confirmed it himself. The discrepancies in the photos may be due to changes in angle.
Something interesting to note about this list is that male celebrities are much more likely to get an otoplasty than women are. While some men are proud of their stuck-out ears, a chunk of the male celebs on this list chose to do something about theirs. This phenomenon could be because women will have an easier time hiding their ears through their hair than men.
Without the cover of long hair, women’s ears would probably stick out a lot more. Yet, we know that this isn’t true for all of them. Kate Hudson, for example, used to sport a short haircut that exposes her prominent ears. Despite that, she shows no signs that she’s bothered by them. It’s really all about personal preference and how they want their ears to look at the end of the day.
How to Get Ideal Ears
If you happen to have too-prominent ears, too small, or too large, don’t fret too much because the fix is a straightforward surgery.
Otoplasty is the surgery for ear reshaping. The procedure does not only cater to those who would like to pin their ears back (which is very common) and those who have issues with deformed ears or any problem with ear size and position.
The patient will be under anesthesia for the duration of the surgical procedure. The surgeon usually makes incisions behind the ear and then stitches up the area to pull back the ear slightly and make it less prominent. In some situations, a reconstruction of the outer ear will be necessary, and the surgeon will take out some of the cartilage.
Usually, the incisions will be on the underside of the ear and hidden in the creases. But if the surgeon will need to make incisions on the front of the ear, the incisions need to be in strategically placed areas where they will be hidden in the ear folds.
The entire procedure only takes about 1-2 hours. However, there will be some discomfort after the procedure. The downtime is around one week for both children and adults. Operating on children is common with otoplasty since the ears are mostly complete when a child hits five years old. Surgery is still possible for children below five, depending on the child’s case. Regardless, adults of any age can have the procedure, and there is no limit to the age at which you can get an otoplasty.
As technology and science progressed over the years, there have also been variations in otoplasties. For instance, there is now a version of otoplasty that does not involve incisions but still requires needles. Though the method is relatively new, around 94% of patients seem satisfied with the procedure (Haytoglu et al., 2015), and it looks like there’s a bright future for this method. If you find that the traditional otoplasty method is too much for you, you can try talking to your surgeon about an incision-free otoplasty.
Even though otoplasty is a pretty routine surgery and has minimal risk associated with it, complications come with it, just like with any other surgical procedure. Since the chances of bleeding and infection remain slim, the most significant risk you should prepare yourself for is the risk that the surgery might not turn out the way you expect. Even with a simple surgery such as otoplasty, there are plenty of considerations to factor in. Just as it could go incredibly well, it could go south very quickly too. To mitigate this issue, make sure that you are consulting with a surgeon that already has enough experience with otoplasties and whom you can trust to get the job done and do it well.
There are way too many patients who go to different surgeons to correct their previous otoplasties or go back to their surgeons since they are not satisfied with the results. Despite otoplasty being a relatively quick and easy surgery, you still don’t want to keep going back to get the problem fixed.
As previously mentioned, infections and bleeding could also happen after an otoplasty, though these are rare. Make sure to choose a board-certified surgeon to help minimize these risks.
Part of the way you manage the risks of things going wrong is by reading this very article. Reading up on the technicalities of ear aesthetics will help you visualize what you want with your ear much better. What you want for your ear is a very personal choice. Even if your surgeon has decades of experience under their belt, they won’t always be able to guess what’s on your mind. As long as what you want is achievable and is safe, the vision you have for your post-op ears takes precedence.
Sometimes, what you want for your ears may go against the grain of convention, such as when you want your ears to be more prominent, which leads us to the next topic.
Ears Too Flat on the Head
Undoubtedly, the most common problem with ears is that they’re too prominent. But even then, some people have issues with ears that are too flat and lack projection. There are even people with ears that are so far back that they don’t show up at all. Sometimes, this issue could arise because of a previous otoplasty from their childhood, and they are no longer satisfied with the result, or just ears that naturally look too flat.
Ways to fix ears that look excessively pinned back are much less common discussion than their opposite. If you went to your surgeon to ask to make your ears more prominent, it would be an odd request, especially if it’s not for an otoplasty revision.
1. Reversing a Previous Otoplasty
An otoplasty revision is possible, although it might be a bit complicated. This surgery applies to people who have had otoplasty before but no longer like their ears’ appearance. Fixing a previous otoplasty largely depends on the technique used by the previous surgeon. There are situations when your surgeon will remove the sutures of the prior procedure, if applicable. The surgeon will often remove some of the scarring from the first procedure, which will help your ear protrude more.
In reality, the treatment for fixing a previous otoplasty is diverse and varies on a case to case basis. The best option for you would be to consult with a reputable plastic surgeon in your area.
2. Ear Correction
There are also circumstances where your ears are too close to your head due to a congenital disability. In these cases, the surgeon will thoroughly assess your ear’s aesthetic situation to determine the best course of action. The surgeon may choose to reconstruct the ear shape and try to bring it out a little more. Cases for ear correction are very varied, and there’s no one way to approach it.
How to Fix Prominent Ears Without Surgery
There is no true way to fix prominent ears without surgery. However, that’s too much of a generalization to account for other treatment methods that you can explore to get a better-looking ear. Ear Splinting and the Auri method can fix ears, but only for young children.
As an adult, you probably won’t find any reliable ways to fix your prominent ears without any form of surgery. Even an incision-less otoplasty is still surgical, albeit much less invasive than a traditional otoplasty. Devices that advertise fixing your prominent ears without surgery are mostly just marketing ploys. While some products may leave you with decent results, they’re not likely to be permanent. In any case, your best shot at fixing your prominent ears is through surgery.
That said, here are a couple of ways that you can fix prominent ears even without otoplasty.
1. Ear Splinting/Molding
This method is only applicable to very young infants that are only a couple of weeks old. Sometimes, ears that stick out too much will already be visible when a child is born. Sometimes, the ear shape will change when they are a toddler at three years old or so. Correcting prominent ears is possible at an early age without the use of surgery or needles. The idea behind it is to take advantage of the infant’s cartilage still being and not fully hardened yet.
2. Auri Method
The Auri method of fixing prominent ears is an explorative option designed for children. Right off the bat, you should know that this is for children who are still growing, and like ear splinting, takes advantage of the changes that occur in childhood, although at an older age. It is, unfortunately, not for adults.
This method involves the use of a clip that attaches to the ear during seeping hours. The clip squeezes the cartilage and creates a fold in place of the antihelix that isn’t there. In a study of the Auri method by Soribes & Tos (2002), 86% of the children received good to fair ear correction using the said method. The parents, remarkably, were 100% satisfied with the treatment. Overall, the technique seemed to be effective. However, there were some issues with itching and irritation in some children, which is understandable given the volatility of children’s skin.