Dear Dr. Kelly: My earring hole is too big and my earring tends to dangle out of it. Can this be fixed?

Response: Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I get. I tell people that I could literally make a living doing just earring hole repairs.

There are two main types of earring hole problems. The first is when the earlobe is intact, but the hole has become enlarged. This sounds like what you have. The earring doesn’t sit up and project forward. Instead the earring tends to fall downward and the front of the earring starts to point to the floor.

The second type of earring hole problem is when the hole tears all the way through the bottom of the earlobe. This can happen with trauma, such as in a basketball game. But it doesn’t always occur with trauma. Sometimes, this occurs when an elongated earring hole like in the example above has been left untreated.

Over time, the elongated hole just gradually breaks through at the bottom of the earlobe, causing a split earlobe. The pictures below show examples of each.

ear 2

In either case, I need to close the hole in surgery. This is done by removing the skin lining the earlobe hole or split, and then sewing the two sides together. The procedure is performed using local anesthesia and takes about ½ hour in the office. If both earlobes are involved, they can both be done at the same time. There is minimal pain and most people just take Tylenol afterwards. One week later, I will remove the stitches. After the stitches are removed, the patient can wear clip-on earrings.

I will usually wait a few weeks for the site to soften and then re-pierce the ear. To prevent the hole from getting big again, I will pierce the ear in a new position: either a little in front, or a little behind, the old earring site. If you pierce in the same position as the old earring hole (on the scar from the repair), the earlobe is more likely to tear again.

I have the patient wear the new earring for a week after the piercing. I instruct them to gently turn the earring while they are wearing it to help the new hole form. After one week, they can change the earring used for piercing and wear one of their own earrings in the new hole.

While to some, an elongated earring hole may seem like a trivial problem, I can assure you that to my patients, it is extremely important. I really enjoy seeing how happy they are when the problem is fixed and their earrings sit just right again.

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