Ear Surgery — Home Care

After ear surgery, it’s important to follow these home care instructions until your doctor tells you otherwise.


Follow a liquid or soft food diet until you’ve fully recovered from the anesthetic. If you’re discharged the day of surgery, don’t eat solid foods before leaving the hospital. This may help prevent nausea or vomiting during the ride home.

Once home, you may go back to your usual diet, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.


You may return to regular activities as instructed by your doctor. Avoid strenuous activities.

Ask your doctor about returning to work or school. Also ask about using special care in doing the following: bathing or showering, shaving, washing hair, swimming, lifting heavy objects, or flying.

You may drive a car when your dizziness is gone. However, move and turn slowly to avoid causing dizziness.

If you have to sneeze, do it with your mouth open and don’t hold your nostrils closed. Blow your nose gently.

Ear care

Wash your hands. Before and after touching your ear, wash your hands. This will help prevent infection.

Dress the outer ear. Change the outer ear cotton at least once a day, or when it becomes moist. You may need to do this up to six times a day. If you have inner ear packing and accidentally pull it out while changing the cotton, call your doctor right away.

To remove ear drainage or discharge from the outer ear, gently wipe the outer ear with a cotton swab (such as a Q-Tip) moistened with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.

Don’t insert a cotton swab or any other object (such as a hair pin) into the ear canal.

Keep the ear clean and dry. Water in the ear can cause infection. To keep it dry when around water such as during bathing or showering, coat a cotton ball with petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) and place it into the ear. You can also use ear plugs or wear properly fitted swimmer ear molds.

Apply ear drops, if prescribed. Hold the bottle in your hand for five minutes to warm the drops before inserting them into the ear. Use one of the ear-drop application techniques listed in this publication.

Stop using the ear drops if they cause severe pain or if they can be tasted after being placed into the ear.

Ear drop application techniques

Adult: Lie on your side and place the drops directly into the ear canal. Allow several minutes for them to reach the ear drum.

Children: Place the child on his or her back or side with the affected ear facing up. Pull the ear upward and back, then insert the drops. Keep the child still for at least five minutes.

Special concerns

Call your doctor if you have any of the following warning signs:

  • Ear drainage that doesn’t decrease after 48 hours or that becomes yellow or foul-smelling
  • Increased pain that isn’t relieved by nonaspirin products (such as Tylenol or ibuprofen) or the medication prescription given to you when you were discharged from the hospital. Infants may be in pain if they pull on their ears.
  • Fever of 100°F
  • Sudden hearing loss, with severe dizziness
  • Increased swelling or redness around any incisions.

Follow-up care

You have a follow-up appointment with:


Doctor: _______________________________________________________

Date and time: _______________________________________________________

Location: _______________________________________________________

Telephone: _______________________________________________________

Emergency care

If you have an emergency, call your doctor. If you can’t reach your doctor, call the emergency department.


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