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!

307 thoughts on “Ear Pain After Tonsillectomy

  1. Got my tonsils removed Dec 14, 2017. I’m 32. Pretty big guy. This is the start of the 7th day after surgery day. I still can’t swallow great. I thought I bounced back on day 4 because I was starving and tried to eat a piece of fried chicken. It took a while to chew up the food but once i swallowed it I felt better. The very next day my ear pain was horrible. This morning my throat was hurting so I took some codeine that was prescribed and my ear pain got worst as soon as I swallowed. My body felt like it was breaking down. I was shaking fiercely like I was thrown in a ice bath. I needed help making it back under the covers because I was shaking too much. I threw on a hat and the meds kicked in probably 5 minutes after taking it. I need this ear pain gone because now I’m even scared to drink. Moral of the story. I don’t want nobody I love to have their tonsils removed lol.

  2. Hey everyone, I just got my tonsils out on Monday December 18th,I’m 20, and ice water and cold cloths to my face and neck help with the swelling but for the past 2 days now the ear pain is getting worse. At one point today I thought I wasn’t able to hear anything. I’m not able to have any other pain med except what they gave me and I cried so much today that my mother had to call my dr and all he did was up my meds. They say 3rd-5th day are the worst. If anyone else has more they could tell me please!

    1. I got my tonsils out on the 19th. I have been eating as much as I can (broth, baby food, fresh shredded chicken, buttered noodles) and drinking basically every second that i’m awake. I was terrified to have this surgery but it honestly hasn’t been horrible. I know it’s supposed to get worse when the scabs fall off around days 7-10. my ears are in a lot of pain right now. i’m icing the very back of my neck with a hard ice pack to relieve some tension in my neck and I have a homemade heat pack (rice, essential oils, and fabric) held next to my ears and it feels amazing.

    2. I had my tonsils out on Dec. 12th. Days 5-6 were bad, and then there was a positive upswing – don’t get too excited. Day 10 just about buried me. This is a long process which I don’t feel I was properly prepared for. Today is day 14 – the ear pain is almost unbearable, and I’ve already been back in the hospital to have the surgery “re-cauterized” after a Tonsil Artery hemorrhage on Day 11. REST as much as possible! Only gargle VERY GENTLY when necessary. Don’t lift or carry anything more than a gallon of milk for the first 12-14 days! Good Luck. Extra Strength Tylenol around the clock, and Tylenol PM to sleep – that’s all I can do.

    3. You can put rice in a sock…put in microwave to warm up…hold next to your ear..it helps

  3. i’m 15 and mad my surgery 5 days ago. i’m in lots of pain and still can’t eat. my ears started hurting this morning when i woke up and i thought it was just me. it got worse so i decided to check the internet. the doctors told me i could eat soft food but i can’t swallow anything. i’m barely drinking because it hurts so bad.

  4. I’m 17, got my tonsils removed this past Tuesday (12th December) and my experience has had a couple differences to many of you. In South Africa our post op food is very different. We are required to eat things such as toast or chips as it scraps away the scabs so there is no scar tissue in the end. In fact they make you eat jello, an ice Lolly, chips and a Coke while in hospital. The problems I’ve had are water/ food coming out my nose and the obvious pain in throat and ears. I actually haven’t had a problem with eating pain as it feels okay (probably due to the fact that we are constantly scraping away the scabs that cause pain during eating) but I find it difficult to eat and drink because of the nose problem. It’s very strange how different our diets are made to be here. We still stick to the other rules (eg- no spicy foods) but eating toast-like foods is a must. And of course lots and lots of water. I must say I thought my pain was bad and I was feeling miserable, then I read some comments and I realized many have it a lot worse! My worry now is that it’s only the 4th day so it could and will apparently get worse. Luckily for me I have been spending my days sleeping- I think I’m only awake for 5 hours everyday so I’m getting plenty of rest. Sleep is actually getting easier.

  5. Found Difflam Spray Benzydamine Hydrochloride is fantastic for throat pain which in turn helps with ear pain 👍🏻

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