Ear tunnel - facts and risks

Ear tunnel - facts and risks

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The term “ear tunnel” does not refer to any part of the body, such as the ear canal, but rather a widened hole that is made in the ear, strictly speaking in the outer ear, so that a piercing made of stainless steel, titanium or other material can be inserted. Such meat tunnels keep a channel open in which the large diameter piercing can be carried.

The most important facts

  • Ear tunnels are enlarged holes in the earlobe through which jewelry is put through. Widely used in many cultures since the Stone Age, such jewelry parts still offer a variant of today Body embellishment, next to elf ears, burn scars, tattoos, piercings and cut scars.
  • Such a meat tunnel is either created by stretching the hole, which takes place gradually over a long period of time, with the help of ever larger pins, or it is punched once into the tissue by a piercer.
  • The ear hole is associated with some risks. The most common are infections and cracks. Through the hole, the outer skin of the earlobe becomes thinner and the larger the diameter of the jewelry, the faster the skin tears.
  • It is not easy to remove an ear hole. If the stretch went smoothly beforehand, then medium-sized stitch channels often shrink back to normal ear hole size. If this does not work, a doctor has to sew the opening.
  • It is an important decision whether you want to have an ear tunnel in the long run. Anyone who decides to do this should pay strict attention to hygiene and consider the consequences.

Stretch the ear hole

A "flesh tunnel", as it is called in English, is a lengthy story. In the beginning there is a normal ear hole for an earring. The earlobe consists of soft parts such as skin, fat and connective tissue and can be stretched. This stretching is done in small steps. An expansion rod, which is usually made of titanium, is inserted into a normal ear hole and pressed through the hole. The procedure is not painless. The diameter of the hole can be increased by about one centimeter per month until it is around six centimeters.
With even greater stretching, the outer skin of the ear becomes very thin. If blood circulation is difficult, the tissue can even die. Nevertheless, some peoples in northeastern Africa traditionally wear meat tunnels up to 15 centimeters in size on their ears. The earlobe can also tear. In women, the connective tissue of the earlobe can usually stretch better.

What to do if it breaks

If you do not put the hole in the center of the earlobe, there is a risk that the earlobe will tear. This would be a minor problem with a normal ear hole and the wound would heal itself if it did not catch fire. However, a meat tunnel is too big for an overgrowth without medical help. The overgrowth is prevented by the strong scar tissue and the ends cannot grow together without connection.

Pegs, thorns and rings - history of the ear tunnels

After the fashion waves of earrings, piercings, tattoos, brandings and cuttings, only ear tunnels seem to be considered exceptional in Germany. The fact that meat tunnels have been popular since the Stone Age has often been forgotten.

Ötzi, the best preserved corpse from the Neolithic Age, found in Tyrol in 1991, had his earlobes stretched 5000 years ago just as the ancient Egyptians did later. In ethnic groups in Africa, slices and stakes are common in ear holes, upper and lower lips, as well as in cultures from the Amazon region, in South and Central America and India. The Dayak in Borneo hung particularly heavy rings in their ears, thus expanding the holes - the earlobes pulled down.

Do it yourself

It is not recommended to stretch an ear hole yourself without professional care. But since many people will continue to do this, here are the most important rules to prevent bad consequences.

At the beginning there is a so-called lobe piercing in the earlobe. It is stretched only when it has healed completely, and then again every few weeks. This patience is imperative, otherwise the tissue will not loosen but tear. Infection and ugly scars could result. In piercing studios there are stretch pins in the appropriate size from one to eight millimeters. They are made of stainless steel or acrylic and are five to ten centimeters long. You coat the pen with lubricant and insert it into the puncture channel. Now put the jewelry with the larger diameter on the hollow on the pin and push it into the channel. If you use such a pen, you must pay strict attention to hygiene.

"Heimpiercer" often use all kinds of chopsticks, matches, thorns and pencils to widen their ears. Please let it be! This increases the risk of the wound becoming infected. Simply pushing larger jewelry into the hole is risky. Cracks, bleeding or inflammation occur regularly here.

Under the scalpel

Short and painful: This applies to the method in which a cut canal is widened or the skin is opened by cutting with a scalpel. So you quickly get a large diameter. People who like to insert very large pieces of jewelry or want to move a larger piercing prefer ear cutting. Since this creates a larger open wound, the risk of infection is greater than when stretching "step by step".

Dermal punch

This quick method saves waiting. The piercer suddenly punches a larger hole in the earlobe. The wound heals faster than with normal piercings, but only medium-sized meat tunnels can be achieved in this way.

Avoid infection and stench

You should clean the branch channel and the jewelry yourself regularly. On the one hand, you use it to prevent infections, and on the other hand, dilated ear holes stink if they are not cleaned. Sebum, sweat and skin residues are deposited in the meat tunnel. Together, this creates a foul-smelling mixture.


The connective tissue in the earlobe can be stretched, but not infinitely. The skin becomes thin and tears quickly. The thinner the skin, the more susceptible it is to pathogens. The most dangerous time is that of stretching itself, because here you keep rubbing against a freshly healed wound.

How do I remove an ear tunnel?

Surgery is essential to remove a healed puncture canal. If the hole is very large, the skin even has to be transplanted surgically. It mostly comes from the throat and is relined with fat from the belly.

Shrink the hole

But you can also try first to make the holes smaller by using smaller and smaller plugs or rings, in contrast to stretching. The ears are likely to shrink again. This doesn't always work and depends on how carefully you enlarged the hole beforehand. If you went too rough at the time, the tissue scars and these scars shrink badly or not at all. Large meat tunnels almost never completely grow on their own. On the other hand, with ear holes of less than eight millimeters, there is a good chance that they will shrink to the size of normal earring canals.

Ear correction

If the hole does not shrink back to the desired size, surgery that requires great surgical skill will help. First, it is checked how much tissue is available, then the epithelial layer under the ring (i.e. up to two millimeters of epidermis) is removed. The lower side of the earlobe is formed into a "wedge" and the upper tissue is distributed around it. Then you sew the wound inside and out with wafer-thin threads. A fine scar remains. After the operation, patients must wear a bandage for around 14 days.

Does the health insurance company pay?

Such an operation requires local anesthesia and general anesthesia if the patient so wishes. It lasts up to 30 minutes and costs up to € 1,300, depending on how difficult it is to reconstruct the earlobe. Health insurance companies generally do not pay for such an operation, since it has been the case since 2007 that they do not have to pay if the customer has had an “unnecessary intervention” carried out. And an enlarged ear hole, as beautiful as it was at the time, those affected found it an unnecessary intervention.

So it is better to think beforehand if you want to expand your branch at a young age, whether you will employ an employer in your job after your school or your studies and what other difficulties might be.

What do the doctors say?

The professional association of German dermatologists for plastic and aesthetic dermatosurgery points out that once the skin is overstretched it does not return to its old shape. So if you intend to undergo such an intervention, you should think very carefully.

What you should also consider: There are a lot of acupuncture points close to your ear. According to this, permanent stimuli could be set unintentionally through the ear tunnels, which are not always positive (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Theuring, Rolf B .: Earrings are imperishable: attempt to interpret an ancient need for jewelry, Books on Demand, 2011
  • Forehead, Aglaja: "Body piercing: medical consequences and psychological motivations", in: The Lancet, Volume 361 Issue 9364, 2003, The Lancet
  • Plewig, Gerd; Prinz, Jörg Christoph: Advances in practical dermatology and venereology, Springer, 2003
  • Away with the Flesh Tunnel - I want my earlobe back: (accessed: October 9, 2018), Deutsche Welle

Video: The Pros u0026 Cons of Stretched Ears (June 2022).