Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

After tonsillectomy surgery, patients have plenty of unpleasant side effects to deal with.  Swelling of the uvula, tongue, and throat are usually the first hurdle adults have to deal with post tonsillectomy. Swallowing and breathing can be difficult.  This isn’t too surprising, especially considering all that the throat has been through.  Icing and gargling with ice water can help reduce this swelling, as can a steroidal treatment. The next problem after tonsillectomy, usually a day or so post-op, is pain in the throat area.  Again, no big surprise.  Icing is also a good way to treat, as are narcotic pain killers and/or over the counter pain medications.  Topical analgesics like throat sprays can also offer some relief.

What surprises many is a phenomena occurring several days into their tonsillectomy recovery- ear pain.

Post Tonsillectomy Ear Pain – Cause and Treatment


Literally thousands of patients sharing their experiences on this website have commented that their ears hurt after tonsillectomy.  Ear pain after tonsillectomy is probably the second or third most common side effect that patients experience- second only to pain and swelling.  But why does this happen? There was no scalpel or hot knife near the ears, so why should they feel like they’re being stabbed?  The cause of ear pain post tonsillectomy starts at the throat and radiates to the ears.  This is called a referred pain. Take a look at the attached diagram and note the lingual nerve.  It’s directly connected to the ears and throat.

Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy- a diagram

Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy- What’s Going on?

Treatments and Home Remedies

This referred pain can be quite severe. Often prescribed pain medications do not seem to relieve the ear pain that many experience after tonsillectomy. In addition to the pain medicines patients are taking, there are two home remedies that usually can provide some relief. The first of which is chewing gum. In light of the unpleasant side effect of have sugary residue in and around the throat, most tonsillectomy patients prefer a sugar -free gum. A mint flavor can also feel cooling. Exactly why chewing gum relieves ear pain is hard to say. Certainly activating the muscles around the ears and jaw may help, but more likely, like yawning, gum chewing releases pressure from the ear area.
Seagate Olive Leaf Throat SprayThe second remedy for ear pain after tonsillectomy is applying a heating pad or warm compress to the affected area. Again, the reason for its effectiveness is not entirely clear but most patients describe a relaxing comfort from applying a wet, warm towel or electric heating pad to the affected area. To reduce inflammation, alternate between warm and cold compresses.


Have you found a trick for taking the edge off of ear pain, especially after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy? Please share it in the comments section below. Thank you!

299 thoughts on “Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy”

  1. Usually never comment but this tip has saved me so much trouble. My ear pain started getting unmanageable at around day 3, i thought i was going crazy. Combined with the teeth ache and inability to eat/drink day 14 seemed like it was never going to come. At first i would get an ice pack and place it around my ear and that seemed to help but as day 4-6 rolled around and it wasn’t enough. ***So, I ran a q-tip/cotton swab under cold running water (just one side) and placed it on the outside of the ear canal. When it got cool enough to reduce the pain in that area i turned the q-tip around (to the dry side) and spread the cold around the ear canal and that honestly was the best relief i had ever felt. Ever since I have kept q-tips handy.*** Good luck to everyone going through this.

  2. July 3 I had my tonsils removed and some polyps in my nose. After the gauze was removed from my nose the pressure isn’t so bad. My throat feels like my tonsils are still there because of the swelling and that maybe I’m feeling the stiches string. That’s a bit bothering. Overall My healing process is better than everyone expected considering I’m 30years old. One thing that is bothering me is that everything I drink or the little bit I can eat feels like it’s “going down the wrong tube” or to my ears. It’s a funny feeling that I hope subsides soon. I put cotton balls in there while I drink and eat. And at night it helped to put a blanket around my head so the cold air wouldn’t hit so hard and covered the air from drying out my throat while I sleep. It’s summer and I can’t make my partner suffer. Hope my testimony helped others..

  3. I’m on day 5 and for the last two days I had sharp ear pain when trying to eat certain foods but today I discovered that I had to chew on a cup of ice before meal and then I could eat anything. I make my ice cups by adding a bit of vitamin drink powder to the water (less than usual because it would be too sour) and then putting it in the freezer and breaking the ice with a spoon so it looks like colored snow in the end. It also helps when my scab starts bleeding a little.

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