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 an artificial 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 the foam packing or ointment dissolves. The packing will dissolve about 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Some bloody fluid may drain from your ear for a few days after surgery.
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.
- 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.
- 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. You will also need to avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding and jogging until your doctor says it's okay.
- 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, 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 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 fiber 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.
- 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 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 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 have more bleeding than expected from the ear.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, warmth, or redness.
- Pus draining from the ear.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.