Common locations for piercings, other than the earlobe, include the rook, tragus, and across the helix (see image at right) . The simple term “ear piercing” usually refers to an earlobe piercing, whereas piercings in the upper part of the external ear are often referred to as “cartilage piercings.” Cartilage piercings are more complex to perform than earlobe piercings and take longer to heal .
Earring components may be made of any number of materials, including metal, plastic, glass, precious stones, and beads. Designs range from small loops and studs to large plates and dangling items. The size is ultimately limited by the physical capacity of the earlobe to hold the earring without tearing. However, heavy earrings worn over extended periods of time may lead to stretching of the earlobe and the piercing.
Ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, with artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating back to early history. One of the early signs of earrings worn by men are from the walls of Perspolis in ancient Persia, the carved images of the soldiers from various parts of the Persian Empire which are displayed on some of the surviving walls of the palace showing the soldiers wearing an ear ring.
Pierced ears were popular in the United States through the early 1920s, then fell into disfavor among women due to the rising popularity of clip-on earrings. Nevertheless, a small male following continued to exist, particularly among sailors, for whom a pierced earlobe often meant that the wearer had sailed around the world or had crossed the equator . In addition, if a non service member sailor was involved in and survived a sinking ship, they were often seen wearing an earring in the left ear. There was also a long-held belief that puncturing the earlobe was beneficial to increasing the acuity of eyesight (see acupuncture) or of hearing . Also, it was a common belief amongst sailors that if their ship wrecked and their bodes washed up on a shoreline, the person to find them would take the earring as payment for a chrisian burial. It is because of this belief that many sailors invested quite a bit of money on gold earrings, as they were very superstitious.
Ear piercing continued to be practiced by Western women of various cultures, e.g., Hispanic, but was less common in Anglo-based cultures until the 1960s . At that time, the practice re-emerged, but since a large commercial market for them did not exist, most ear piercings were done at home . Teenage girls were known to hold ear piercing parties, where they performed the procedure on one another. Such an event is depicted in the 1978 motion picture Grease, where Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), the leading lady, is pierced by her friends.
Ear piercing became commonly available in physician offices . Some of the earliest commercial, non-medical locations for getting an ear piercing appeared in the 1970s at Manhattan jewelry stores, although the overall commercial market was still in its infancy. By the 1980s, ear piercing was common among many women, thus creating a broader market for the procedure. Department stores throughout the country would hold ear piercing events, sponsored by earring manufacturers. At these events, a nurse or other trained person would perform the procedure, either pushing a sharpened and sterilized starter earring through the earlobe by hand, or using an ear-piercing instrument modified from the design used by physicians .
In the late 1960s, ear piercing began to make inroads among men through the hippie and gay communities. In the late 1970s, amateur piercings, sometimes with safety pins and/or multiple piercings, became popular in the punk rock community. By the 1980s, the trend for male popular music performers to have pierced ears helped establish a fashion trend for men. This was later adopted by many professional athletes. British men started piercing both ears in the 1980s; George Michael of Wham! was a prominent example. The heavily jeweled Mr. T was an early example of an American celebrity wearing earrings in both ears, although this trend did not become popular with mainstream American men until the 1990s.
In various Western cultures, piercing the left vs. the right ear alone has sometimes been popularly perceived to be associated with a particular sexual orientation (or with an active vs. passive role in a homosexual relationship) [ Google search]. However, due to the lack of uniformity, such generalizations are essentially meaningless.
Multiple piercings in one or both ears first emerged in mainstream America in the 1970s. Initially, the trend was for women to wear a second set of earrings in the earlobes, or for men to double-pierce a single earlobe. Asymmetric styles with more and more piercings became popular, eventually leading to the cartilage piercing trend.
A variety of specialized cartilage piercings have since become popular. These include the tragus piercing, antitragus piercing, rook piercing, industrial piercing, helix piercing, orbital piercing, daith piercing, and conch piercing. In addition, earlobe stretching, while common in primitive cultures for thousands of years, began to appear in Western society in the 1990s, and is now a fairly common sight. However, these forms of ear piercing are still infrequent compared to standard ear piercing.
In Islam only females can get their ear and nose pierced. As for males it represents 'looking like women' act according to many muslims' traditions over history. Taking it from that point of view many muslim cultures considered it Ḥarām.
Body piercing jewelry is often used for ear piercings, and is selected for a variety of reasons including the availability of larger gauges, better piercing techniques, and a disdain for mainstream jewelry.
Several varieties of non-pierced earrings exist.
Whereas most earrings worn in the Western world are designed to be removed fairly easily to be changed at will, earrings can also be permanent (non-removable). They were once used as a mark of slavery or ownership (e.g., see Bible, King James, Exodus#Chapter_21, Bible, King James, Deuteronomy#Chapter_15). They appear today in the form of larger gauge rings which are difficult or impossible for the wearer to remove without assistance. Occasionally, hoop earrings are permanently installed by the use of solder. , though this poses some risks due to toxicity of metals used in soldering and the risk of burns from the heat involved. Besides permanent installations, locking earrings are occasionally worn by people of both sexes, due to their personal symbolism or erotic value.
A long-standing home method involves using ice as a local anesthetic, a sewing needle as a puncture instrument, a burning match and rubbing alcohol for disinfection, and a semi-soft object, such as a potato, cork, or rubber eraser, as a push point. Sewing thread may be drawn through the piercing and tied, as a device for keeping the piercing open during the healing process. Alternatively, a gold stud or wire earring may be directly inserted into the fresh piercing as the initial retaining device.
Another method for piercing ears, first made popular in the 1960s, was the use of sharpened spring-loaded earrings known as self-piercers, trainers, or sleepers, which gradually pushed through the earlobe. However, these could slip from their initial placement position, often resulting in more discomfort, and many times would not go all the way through the earlobe without additional pressure being applied. This method has fallen into disuse due to the popularity of faster and more successful piercing techniques.
Ear piercing instruments, sometimes called ear piercing guns, were originally developed for physician use but with modifications became available in retail settings. Today more and more people in the Western world have their ears pierced with an ear piercing instrument in specialty jewelry or accessory stores, or at home using disposable ear piercing instruments. Claire's Stores inc. has done the most piercings worldwide. Claire's stores and its subsidiary's have done over 80 million ear piercings worldwide. Their stores use either the Studex 75 or Inverness systems. (Source: Claires.com)Two of the most popular systems are the Studex 75 and the Inverness system. An earlobe piercing performed with an ear piercing instrument is often described as feeling similar to being pinched, or being snapped by a rubber band.
An alternative which is growing in practice is the use of a hollow piercing needle, as is done in body piercing.
In tribal cultures and among some neo-primitive body piercing enthusiasts, the piercing is made using other tools, such as animal or plant organics.
Initial healing time for an earlobe piercing performed with an ear piercing instrument is typically 6-8 weeks. After that time, earrings can be changed, but if the hole is left unfilled for an extended period of time, there is some danger of the piercing closing. Piercing professionals recommend wearing earrings in the newly pierced ears for at least 6 months, and sometimes even a full year. Cartilage piercing will usually require more healing time than earlobe piercing, sometimes 2-3 times as long. After healing, earlobe piercings will shrink to smaller gauges in the prolonged absence of earrings, and in most cases will completely disappear.
With cartilage piercing, the blunt force of an ear piercing instrument will traumatize the cartilage, and therefore make healing more difficult. Also, because there is substantially less blood flow in ear cartilage than in the earlobe, infection is a much more serious issue. There have been several documented cases of severe infections of the upper ear following piercing with an ear piercing instrument, which required courses of antibiotics and/or surgery to clear up.).,
For all ear piercings, the use of a sterilized hollow piercing needle tends to minimize the trauma to the tissue, and minimize the chances of contracting a bacterial infection during the procedure. As with any invasive procedure, there is always a risk of infection from blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV. However, modern piercing techniques make this risk extremely small (the risk being greater to the piercer than to the piercee due to the potential splash-back of blood). There has never been a documented case of HIV transmission due to ear/body piercing or tattooing, although there have been instances of the Hepatitis B virus being transmitted through these practices.