After Ear Surgery Instructions

Dr. Howerton with a patient.

These are general instructions for care after common ear surgeries. You may receive specialized instructions after your surgery. Immediately after surgery, your hearing may be worse due to packing in the ear. It may take up to three months to establish a new baseline. If you have questions, please contact your doctor or address concerns during your follow-up appointment.

Follow-Up Appointment

Before you leave the hospital, please confirm the nurse has made a follow-up appointment for you or call 843-792-3531.

Contact Information

If you need post-surgery assistance, please contact:
MUSC Health ENT clinic
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On-Call MUSC Health ENT Physician
After Hours


Reasons to Call Immediately

  • Temperature greater than 101.5 F
  • Difficulty eating or drinking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache with neck stiffness
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Oozing, milky, thick, green or foul-smelling drainage
  • Worsening redness, swelling, pain
  • Worsening dizziness
  • Head dressing saturated with blood
  • Incision does not stop bleeding
  • Any other questions or concern

Wound Care

  • For one to two days, there may be a small amount of blood oozing from the incision inside the ear canal and/or behind the ear
  • Your doctor will indicate when the head dressing and gauze can be removed
  • For one to two weeks, some blood (or brown, pink, yellow, black or clear fluid) may drain from your ear canal; cotton in the ear can be changed as needed if it is soaked with drainage; stop
  • using cotton if there is no drainage
  • Ear packing may fall out, but do not remove it; apply ear drops directly to packing
  • In one week, skin tape covering the incision may be removed if it has not fallen off
  • Do not remove any stitches, as they dissolve on their own

Common Symptoms

  • Pain around the surgical site (improves with time but may last up to two weeks)
  • Numbness around the incision and ear (gradually improves with time)
  • Clicking, popping, pulsing, ringing, or other sounds
  • Soreness or bruising of the lips, eyelids, and shoulders
  • Jaw, neck or throat pain
  • Headaches and fatigue


  • Resume home medication, unless instructed otherwise
  • Follow prescription instructions for application procedure, frequency, and quantity of ear drops
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) as needed for pain
  • Prescription narcotics (Norco, Percocet) for breakthrough pain only (**some narcotics have acetaminophen included, so do not take acetaminophen at the same time)
  • Call the clinic if you need narcotic pain medications
  • Fiber and stool softeners (docusate) may help with constipation from pain medications
  • Anti-nausea medications may be prescribed for dizziness with nausea and/or vomiting


  • ALWAYS keep the inside of the ear dry
  • Shower or bathe 48 hours after surgery, but do not soak or scrub the wound
  • Place a cotton ball coated with Vaseline or an earplug in the outside bowl of the ear (don’t use cotton without lubricant or push on packing inside the ear)
  • If water gets in, dab with a dry towel; don’t place anything inside the ear canal
  • Dry incisions immediately after showering and apply moisturizing lotion (Aquaphor, Cetaphil) or antibiotic ointment (if prescribed) over incisions until they are fully healed; no need to apply lotion when incision is covered by tape, but apply when the tape falls off

Activity Restrictions

  • Your doctor will indicate when it’s okay to return to work or fly
  • To decrease chance of bleeding, don’t lift more than 20 pounds or strain for two weeks
  • Do not strain on the toilet or blow your nose (sneeze with your mouth open)
  • Take care when driving, walking, and showering, as there may be dizziness or imbalance for days to weeks after surgery


  • Consume healthy food and maintain hydration by drinking plenty of water
  • Food may taste different or there may be decreased taste for weeks to months