After Ear Surgery Instructions

T A Meyer and patient

NOTE: These are general instructions we provide to patients after common ear surgeries performed at MUSC. These instructions may be different from what you receive after your surgery.

Read these instructions before you leave the hospital in case you have any questions.

You just underwent [surgery name]. Your hearing may be worse right now due to packing in the ear. It will take up to three months to establish a new baseline. Questions about hearing outcomes and future plans may be addressed at your follow-up appointment.

  1. Wound care: you have an incision [inside the ear canal and/or behind the ear]. Your head dressing and the gauze around your ear can be removed [number] days after surgery. The cotton ball in your ear can be changed as needed as it gets soaked with blood/drainage. You can stop using it if there is no drainage. Expect some blood (or brown, pink, yellow, black, or clear fluid) to drain from your ear canal for one to two weeks. There is packing inside the ear. It may fall out, but do not attempt to remove it. It is ok to apply ear drops directly to the packing. There may be a small amount of blood oozing from the incision for one to two days. The brown skin tape strips covering your incision behind the ear may be removed in one week if they have not come off on their own. All stitches dissolve on their own. Do not remove any stitches visible in the incision.
  2. Common symptoms: Pain around your surgical site will improve with time but may last up to two weeks. You will have numbness around your incision and ear, which will gradually improve with time. You may hear clicking, popping, pulsing, ringing, or other sounds due to the packing and healing process. You may have soreness or bruising of your lips, eyelids, and shoulders due to placement of facial nerve monitoring electrodes. You may experience jaw or neck pain due to surgical positioning. Throat pain is common after intubation for surgery. You may also experience headaches and fatigue which should improve.
  3. Ear medications: use the ear drops prescribed (usually ciprofloxacin with dexamethasone or ofloxacin) starting [number] days after surgery, and use for [number] days, [number] times a day, [number] drops each time. Lie on the opposite side for two minutes after applying drops to allow the drops to seep inward. If different instructions are written on the ear drops bottle, follow the instructions here instead.
  4. Other medications: use acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin) as needed for pain. Use prescription narcotics (e.g. Norco, Percocet) for breakthrough pain only. Some narcotics have acetaminophen included (e.g. Norco, Percocet), so do not take acetaminophen at the same time. Call the clinic if you need more narcotic pain medications. Fiber and stool softeners (e.g. docusate) may help with constipation from pain medications. Use the anti-nausea medications prescribed if you have dizziness with nausea and/or vomiting. Resume your home medications when you go home unless otherwise specified.
  5. Shower/bathing: you may shower or bathe 48 hours after your surgery, but do not soak or scrub your wound. Dry incisions immediately after showering. Keep the inside of your ear dry AT ALL TIMES at least until your follow-up appointment, but likely for two to three months. You may use a cotton ball coated with lubricant (e.g. Vaseline) placed tightly in the outside bowl of the ear to keep water out of the ear. Do not use cotton without lubricant as it will draw water into the ear. If water gets in, dab with a dry towel but do not place anything inside the ear canal. You may use other earplugs also as long as they do not push on the packing inside the ear. Apply moisturizing lotion (e.g. Aquaphor, Cetaphil) or antibiotic ointment (if prescribed) over incisions until they are fully healed. No need to apply lotion when incision is covered by skin tape, but apply when the tape falls off.
  6. Activity restrictions: do not lift anything over 20 pounds or strain for two weeks after surgery to decrease chance of bleeding. Do not blow your nose. Sneeze with your mouth open. Do not strain on the toilet. You may return to work [number] days after surgery. Do not fly for [two weeks/one month] after surgery, but call if this is unavoidable. Be careful with walking and showering as you may be dizzy or have imbalance for days to weeks after surgery. You may need someone to help with driving and other activities if you are too dizzy.
  7. Diet: healthy food. Maintain hydration by drinking plenty of water. Your food may taste different or you may have decreased taste for weeks to months.
  8. Follow-up appointment: You will follow up with Dr. [name] in clinic on [date] to check on your ear and incision. Before you leave the hospital, confirm that your nurse has called to make the appointment for you. If this was not possible, call 843-792-3531 during normal business hours for an appointment.
  9. Contact info: Call the ear, nose, throat (ENT) clinic at 843-792-3531 from 8 am to 5 pm or ask for the on-call ENT physician at 843-792-2123 if the clinic is not reachable. Please be patient as there may be a slight delay in response if you leave a message with the clinic. Call if:

a. Temperature greater than 101.5 F

b. Difficulty eating or drinking

c. Difficulty breathing

d. Chest pain

e. Severe headache with neck stiffness

f. Persistent nausea and vomiting

g. Purulent, milky, thick, green, or foul-smelling drainage from the ear canal

h. Worsening incision redness, drainage, swelling, and pain

i. Worsening dizziness

j. If your head dressing is saturated with blood and dripping

k. Incision does not stop bleeding

l. If you have to change the cotton ball in your ear more than once an hour due to saturation with blood

m. Any other questions or concerns.