Otoplasty - a cosmetic operation?
An interview with the inventor of the stitch method, Priv. Doz. Dr. med. Waldemar Merck
Many adults suffer from low self-esteem and inferiority complexes due to protruding ears. Already as children, they were teased about their "Dumbo-" or "bat’s ears". The inventor of the stitch method, Dr. Waldemar Merck, has heard this repeatedly in his conversations with his patients.
Dr. Merck, are protruding ears more of an aesthetic or a psychological problem for your patients?
The insurance companies and, unfortunately, also many doctors wrongly assume that adults do not suffer from their protruding ears because they have become accustomed to them. This is also the reason why insurance companies will not pay for the procedure for adults. They believe that it is a purely cosmetic procedure.
My experience, however, shows that adults often suffer even more from their protruding ears than children do.
Why were (and are) more children with protruding ears operated on with the "old" methods than adults?
Back when I worked at the university clinic, I noticed that we had only few adult patients with protruding ears, as compared to child patients. This was due to the fact that most adults choose not to risk the bloody, invasive method for correcting their ears. Children have no choice in these matters and must do whatever their adult parents decide. The old methods cause unnecessary pain, require bandaging for a long time, and often hospital stays. I am happy that I am able to offer even the smallest patients my minimally invasive method, the “Dr. Merck stitch method”. With this method, ears are corrected quickly and easily, on an outpatient basis.
Interesting is that, now, not only children but more and more adults are coming for the procedure. This proves that there is actually a great demand among adults. With my method, they are no longer afraid.
Do you believe that the psychological state of your patients improves?
As I mentioned, adults often suffer even greater psychological problems due to their ears than children. Only, adults don't like to talk about it.
Let me share two cases from my experience with you: I had a 53-year-old patient who, as is my custom, was allowed to help determine the position of his ears with a hand-held mirror. When the first ear had been corrected and he saw it in the mirror, he began to cry like I had seen no man cry before. His whole body was shaking. At that time, I didn’t know what this meant and I looked at him with concern. He saw that I was worried and apologised, saying that I should not misunderstand him, but that at that moment he just could not grasp how, in one hour, my procedure had removed something which he had suffered from his whole life.
Another case: a 33-year-old patient told me, "Doctor, I'm going to tell you something I've never told anyone before. I’ve never been to a public swimming pool in my life before because I have always been afraid that somebody would throw me in the water and that when I came up, somebody might see what I'd been hiding under my long hair – my protruding ears!" When I see how much people suffer due to their protruding ears, I'm happy that I can help with my simple method.
In the last few years, you've performed thousands of otoplasties using your method. What have been your patients' experiences?
I have carried out statistical analyses on this topic. They have revealed that every patient I have operated on had suffered some form of psychological problem due to their ears, be it low self-esteem or lacking confidence. This has a negative effect on partnerships and even on job interviews. Results also show that no cosmetic procedure produces such thankful patients as I have experienced after correcting protruding ears with my method. You can see it in their eyes. Often, patients make spontaneous remarks such as "unbelievable" or "I just can't believe it". And patients often embrace me in gratitude at the end of the procedure. I receive many thank-you letters, often with photos. Meanwhile, there is an entire folder of letters and photos in my office. Before the invention of my new method, when I was still attaching ears with the usual method, I never received a single thank-you note.
Dr. Merck, thank you for this interview.