A new trend in tribal piercings is starting: reconstructive surgery to repair stretched earlobes.
Once an ear lobe is gauged past a half-inch, the only way to fix them is to cut the excess skin, according to CBS News.
The procedure takes 40 minutes and a local anesthetic is used. Plastic surgeon Adrian Richards said he has seen an increase in the number of procedures in the last 12 months because of the negative impression of those with what he calls "flash tunnels," according to CBS News.
"We've had guys in the Army threatened with discharge if they don't have their ears repaired," said Richards, director at Aurora Clinics. Richards said that anyone from golf professionals to clergy to teachers have inquired about the surgery, according to CBS News.
A new regulation on the U.S Army's website bans soldiers from, "willfully mutilating the body... including... ear gauging (enlarging holes in the ear lobes greater than 1.6mm)," according to CBS News. Questions about plugs on the Army forum "Ask a Soldier" confirms that rule. Many soldiers answered by saying that if the recruiter can see light pass through the hole, the recruit will not pass the medical exam.
Reconstructive surgery on earlobes is more common in the UK than the US, but people in cities like Los Angeles and Seattle are starting to repair their ears, said Dr. Michael Edwards, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, according to CBS News.
"Patients realize [ear gauges] are not becoming in terms of job hunting or work – sort of like tattoos," Edwards said, according to CBS News.
The procedure can range from $1,500 to $3,000 in the US or over $3,000 in the UK.