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Tympanomastoidectomy: What to Expect at Home

Your Recovery

A tympanomastoidectomy (say "tim-PAN-oh-mas-toyd-ECK-tuh-mee") is surgery to treat frequent ear infections that have damaged the eardrum and tissue in and near the ear. The doctor removes the abnormal or infected tissue in the bony area behind the ear, called the mastoid. The doctor repairs the eardrum. The doctor also may repair the three tiny bones in the middle ear that help with hearing.

You may feel dizzy for a few days after surgery. The cut (incision) the doctor made behind your ear may be sore. And you may have ear pain for about a week.

Your ear will probably feel blocked or stuffy. This usually gets better as the eardrum heals and after the doctor takes the cotton or gauze out of the ear canal. The doctor will take out the cotton or gauze about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Some bloody fluid may drain from your ear for 1 to 2 days after the gauze is removed.

At first, you may notice that things taste different. This is because the nerves that control taste are in the middle ear behind the eardrum. This may get better as the ear heals.

While you are healing, it's important to avoid getting water in your ear. You will also need to avoid activities that may put pressure on your eardrum. This includes flying in an airplane, swimming, scuba diving, or playing contact sports.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?


  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid sudden head movements and bending over for the first 2 to 5 days after surgery. These actions may cause dizziness.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for at least 2 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags, or milk containers.
  • Do not fly in an airplane, swim, scuba dive, or play contact sports for at least 2 to 6 weeks, or until your doctor says it is okay. These activities could prevent your eardrum from healing correctly.
  • Do not get water in your ear until your doctor says it is okay. You can take baths, but do not shower or get water near your ear until the packing is removed. When you bathe, plug your ear with a cotton ball lightly coated in petroleum jelly to keep water out. Do not use plastic earplugs that go into the ear canal while you have packing in your ear. Use only the earplugs that your doctor recommends.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Most people are able to go back to work or their normal routine in about 1 to 2 weeks. But if your job requires strenuous activity or heavy lifting, you may need to take more time off.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Check with your doctor before drinking alcohol. Alcohol may make dizziness worse.
  • You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fibre supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • Store your prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops to put in your ear. Follow your doctor's instructions exactly.

Incision care

  • If you have strips of tape on the incision behind your ear, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • You may have a bandage over the incision. You can remove the bandage 1 or 2 days after surgery or when your doctor says it is okay.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • Until your doctor says it is okay, do not blow your nose. If you need to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Open your mouth, and do not pinch your nose.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You bleed through your bandage.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision or ear canal.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.