BRANDON McGillvery was 14 when he decided to grow a hole in his ear.
‘‘My parents weren’t too happy with it, but I knew what I was getting into,’’ the 22-year-old said.
Mr McGillvery’s piercing started as a tiny stud, and over a two-year period, the Launceston man stretched the gap into a three-centimetre flesh tunnel.
‘‘You do it two millimetres at a time – find a ring that fits, let it heal for a month, and then go up a size,’’ he said.
‘‘Anything past eight millimetres is going to be permanently stretched – it doesn’t come back after that.
‘‘I used to get a few disapproving looks, but I think it’s a pretty common thing now.’’
According to some news reports, it is also behind one of the most rapidly rising medical procedures.
The Guardian UK reported this week that cosmetic surgeon Adrian Richards had pioneered a technique to repair severely stretched earlobes – with at least 10 new patients a month lining up for the operation.
Mr Richards said the operation – about $3000 for two ears – was performed under local anaesthetic and took about 30 minutes.
It involves removing stretched skin, stitching the ear internally, and using melt-away stitches on the outside.
In Tasmania, cosmetic and plastic surgeries said they had not seen a marked rise in people presenting for flesh tunnel repair.
This was echoed by Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons president Tony Kane, who said it was still more common for people to be present when an earring had been accidentally ripped out.
‘‘But it is a fairly easy procedure to fix the ear lobe that has been stretched (by a gauge),’’ Dr Kane said.
‘‘I’ve had people wanting to join the armed forces come and get it sorted out.’’
Without his rings or ear spike, Mr McGillverey’s lobes resemble a thick, pink, dangling rubber band.
‘‘I’ve got a mate who had 20s (20 millimetres) in each ear and last year he got them fixed,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m still happy with mine though. I might even try and stretch them back out to 30mm.’’