If you’ve worn earrings for any substantial amount of time, you may require immediate surgery.

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Just ask Dr. Edward Miranda, a San Francisco-based plastic surgeon and lobe lift expert. He explains that earlobe ailments requiring reconstruction come in two frightening-sounding varieties: “Sudden traumatic avulsion of the earlobe piercing” – which occurs when an earring is pulled violently from the lobe, usually by a child or jilted lover – and “chronic attenuated earlobes,” which is a fancy description for droopy ears caused by years of earring abuse. The surgery is pricey, anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, but Dr. Miranda claims that lobe lifts have become more popular than ever, particularly in just the last six months. His theory? People are just living longer. He recalls a particularly memorable patient, a 60-year-old woman who’d worn excessive earrings since her early 20s, whose lobes were so eroded that one of them had completely split into two halves. But after getting corrective surgery, she survived to wear gaudy earrings heavier than bowling balls once again.

(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the February 12th, 2012 issue of the New York Times Magazine.)