Stapedectomy: What to Expect at Home
A stapedectomy (say "stay-puh-DEK-tuh-mee") is surgery to remove a small bone, called the stapes, from the middle ear. The middle ear contains three bones: the stapes (say "STAY-peez"), the incus, and the malleus. These bones help with hearing. This surgery is done when the tissue around the stapes hardens and prevents the stapes from working correctly. The doctor replaces the stapes with a man-made stapes, called a prosthesis.
You may have some ear pain or a headache and be slightly dizzy for several days after the surgery.
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 packing out of the ear canal. The doctor will take out the packing 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Some bloody fluid may drain from your ear for 1 to 3 days after the packing is removed.
Your hearing may improve right away. But often it takes about 2 to 4 weeks to notice a difference. Hearing often continues to improve in the 2 months after surgery.
While you are healing, it's important to avoid getting water in your ear. Your ears may be very sensitive to noise at first. Try to avoid places that are very noisy.
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. For the first week, sleep with your head up by using two or three pillows. You can also try to sleep with your head up in a reclining chair.
- 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.
- For 1 week after surgery, avoid sudden head movements and bending over. These actions may cause dizziness.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for about 2 to 4 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 and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
- Do not fly in an airplane, swim, scuba dive, or play contact sports until your doctor says it is okay. These activities could prevent your ear from healing correctly.
- Do not get water in your ear for 4 to 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay. When you take a shower or bath, use a soft silicone earplug or 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.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- Most people are able to go back to work or their normal routine in about 1 week. But if your job requires strenuous activity or heavy lifting, you may need to take up to 4 weeks 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. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- 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.
- For 4 weeks, 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 are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You bleed through your bandage.
- You have a fever over 38°C.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- You notice changes in hearing.
- You do not get better as expected.
Current as of: May 4, 2022