Ear gauging is the process of stretching out your ear piercings so that they can accommodate thicker posts. Most people's ears are pierced with thin posts, such as 18 or 20 gauge. However, by using various tools to gradually stretch out the ears, one can dramatically stretch the original holes so that they can hold gauges as thick as 4 or 6. However, there are some serious ramifications to gauging, and you need to understand exactly what you are doing before you begin the process.
Ear gauging stretches out the holes in your ears. Basically, ear gauging involves forcing larger and larger posts or rings through your piercings over time. As your piercing adapt to the new size, you then insert a larger gauge. It must be done gradually or you will tear your earlobe.
Ear gauging is uncomfortable, but seldom seriously painful unless you try to hurry the process. It requires multiple posts of incrementally larger gauges and takes time and patience. Ear gauging symptoms include temporary swelling and tenderness in the earlobe area.
Your time frame for ear gauging will depend partly on your ear lobes' receptiveness to stretching and partly on how big you want to stretch your holes. You should expect to wait at least two weeks in between sizes to allow your earlobes to fully heal. If you try to stretch your lobes by too much at once, for example, going from an 18 gauge post to an 8, then if you do not tear your earlobes doing so you can still expect at least 4 weeks of soreness and a prolonged healing time that will depend largely on how much damage you do while you are engaged in this traumatic ear gauging.
Before you gauge your ears, have your current piercings evaluated by a professional. Their location in your ear lobe will impact how large you can go before tearing your lobe or stretching it so thin that it simply gives way. Also, you need to consider whether or not you may need to return to a smaller hole at some point in the future. While moderately gauged ears often will shrink back over time and become unnoticeable once the large plugs are removed, really large gauges are not likely to return to their original state ever.
Many people think that they can just have their ears pierced with a large gauge post in order to be able to wear ear plugs and large gauge rings. However, piercing with high gauges actually seriously increases your risk of infection because it removes a large plug of skin with the piercing. Most piercers will not pierce with anything thicker than 14 gauge, and many refuse to even go this thick.
Whenever you alter your body, you expose yourself to the risk of infection. As a result, when gauging your ears you need to watch for redness, heat and bleeding. These are all fairly common symptoms, but if they do not fade quickly, then you should consult a piercing professional and you may need to see a medical doctor in order to prevent issues like gangrene.