Ear gauging is a popular body modification practice in which gauges of varying, graduated sizes are placed in an ear piercing to slowly stretch out the hole for a larger spacing. Ear gauging can be painful and have lasting effects that may one day need surgery to repair. If you are considering ear gauging, make sure you understand all of the effects before you start using the gauges to stretch out your earlobes.
Each time you place a new gauge into the ear hole you leave yourself open to infection, says the American Academy of Family Physicians. A new gauge means that you are stretching the ear lobe wide enough to place the new one in, continuously opening the new wound, which your body is continually trying to heal. Using unclean gauges or instruments to insert the gauge could introduce bacteria into an essentially unhealed wound, possibly causing infection, scarring and pain.
While a stretching of the earlobe is the natural and a desirable outcome for the process, the stretching may go far past what your intentions are. Even if the gauges are kept fairly small, your earlobe could stretch past that due to the weight of the gauge.
Once your ear has stretched past a certain point, a part of the ear can exceed its blood supply, resulting in the tearing or separation of the earlobe, says Dr. Barry Eppley an Indianapolis plastic surgeon. The result is a separated earlobe, usually close to where the ear attaches to the side of the head. It's likely the cause of gauging too quickly and not allowing sufficient time for stretching in between each size. Surgery is necessary to effectively reshape the earlobe and stitch it back together to remedy the problem.
Ear gauging is permanent past a certain point. Gauges past 5 mm are not as apt to close up, even when you remove the gauges from your ears. This means that if you one day decide to remove the gauges from your ears, your lobes will have stretched out holes that are too stretched to ever grow back together, and you'll need surgery to fix the problem if you so choose.
Each time you insert a new gauge into the ear, you are going to have to stretch the hole to accommodate for the new size. With this comes a considerable amount of pain, as you pull to maneuver the new gauge into the earlobe.