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.

The 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!

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94 Comments on "Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy"

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June 24, 2016 2:10 am

21y/old Female. Day 7 of tonsillectomy. These last couple days the ear pain has been the main issue. Especially yesterday and today. I knew it was normal but it got so bad I was worried they were infected. I have put a drop or 2 of peroxide in them and let it sit and run it out if it would, and then cover ears with cotton balls at night to keep air out, and take aleve (I try to stay off the pain meds and aleve works best) and warm heating pad under ear lobe to help with swelling and discomfort. Strugglin with this post op surgery recovery. Cannot wait till this is over with. GoodLuck everyone!

June 17, 2016 9:14 am

Hi guys! I’m only 5 days in! I got my tonsils out Monday June 13th. I’m 26 and have needed them out since I was a teenager because of my reoccurring tonsillitis and sinus infections. I was happy to finally get them out but also dreaded the pain. For me the throat pain is actually somewhat bareable it’s the ear pain and the ringing in my ears that have been the worst! It didn’t start until day 3 and it keeps me up at night and it is hard to fall asleep or drink. Also if I sneeze or cough which I do a lot when I wake up it’s a game over and feels like explosives are going off in my ears. I’m going to try the cold ice pack and warm one under by neck and see if that helps! Thanks for your recommendations. As far as everything else goes recovery wise, I’ve only thrown up once but it was because I coughed and could feel my swollen uvula in my throat and had a natural gag reaction. I’ve eaten some but I have no appetite. It’s not too bad to eat when I want to. The most frustrating days so far have been day 3 and 4. I’ll see what today holds and let you guys know at the end of my recovery.

June 16, 2016 7:17 pm

Hi, I am on day 7 after having a tonsillectomy. It’s been by far the worst pain I’ve ever had. I have lost 14 pounds already due to hardly being able to eat. I have had the worst taste in my mouth and have to brush my teeth and gargle water at least 4 times a day due to the scabs. I also had to be re-admitted to hospital yesterday due to coughing up lumps of blood. I panicked a lot – but if this happens to you it’s just an infection which is treated by anti-biotics. My ears have been popping and aching also but I find an ice pack under the ear / throat helps a lot! Hope you all get better soon!