During a labyrinthectomy, your surgeon removes a portion of the inner ear that controls your balance function. The most common reason for a labyrinthectomy is to treat Meniere’s disease. Other forms of inner ear damage may be treated with a labyrinthectomy. This surgery will be done only if you already have near-total or total hearing loss in your affected ear.

Your cochlea (hearing organ) will not be removed so that it may be used for a future cochlear implant, if needed.

What to Expect After Surgery

  • You spend 2-3 days in the hospital.

  • You can expect to come out of surgery with an incision behind or above your ear, and a dressing over your ear and head.

  • Common side effects include:

    • Headache.

    • Numbness around your incision which may last for months.

    • Surgery stops vertigo attacks, but you will have trouble with balance for 4-6 weeks after surgery while your other ear learns to make up for your loss of balance. You may work with a physical therapist to help you manage your symptoms.

    • You will not have hearing in your surgical ear.

    • You may notice a change in how things taste for a few months.

  • You will come back for a follow-up visit in about 5 weeks.

Incision Care

  • Your large ear dressing will be removed the day after surgery. The incision behind your ear is closed with stiches that dissolve.

  • The incision can be exposed to water 2 days after surgery. Avoid direct shower spray on your incision and do not swim until the incision is totally healed.

  • Check your incision for:

    • Redness spreading from the incision

    • Increased swelling

    • Increased tenderness

    • Warmth at the incision site

    • Pus-like drainage from the incision

When You Go Home

  • You will be off work for 4-6 weeks. It will depend on what kind of work you do. Your doctor will give you specific instructions about going back to work.

  • Avoid heights and ladders for at least 1 month or until your balance improves.

  • No jogging, aerobics, contact sports or lifting more than 25 pounds for at least 4 weeks.

  • Keep your head raised at least 30⁰ when you lie down for the first 1-2 weeks. Do not lie on the side of your surgery until your doctor clears it.

  • Do not blow your nose for 1 week. After a week, if you must blow your nose, do it gently, one side at a time, to avoid pressure on your ears.

  • For the first week after surgery, open your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Do not hold back a sneeze.

  • In about 4 weeks you can travel by air. Check with your doctor first.

  • Avoid constipation and straining in the bathroom. You will be given a stool softener to use while you are taking the pain pills.

  • Do not drive or drink alcohol while taking any pain pills.

When to Call

  • Bleeding that soaks a gauze dressing in 10 minutes or less and lasts for one hour.

  • Fever over 100.5⁰ F by mouth, checked 4 hours apart.

  • Pain not relieved by pain medicine.

  • Any signs of infection.

  • Weakness of the face or facial droop.

Who to Call

If you have questions or problems once you are home, please call the ENT clinic at (608) 263-6190 or toll free 800-323-8942, weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm. The clinic RN will return your call.

After hours or weekends, the paging operator will answer the clinic number and will have an ENT doctor call you back.