After the Operation

After the operation there will be a bandage around the head which should stay on for at least 24 hours. Behind the ear there will be some plasters (Steri-Strips) covering the wound. These should be left in place for at least a week.

The ear canal will be packed with a dressing which will be removed at the first outpatient visit. A piece of cotton wool will be in place covering the ear hole. This may become moist and should be changed carefully.

The stitches used will dissolve themselves and so do not need to be removed.

Antibiotics will be given intravenously while in hospital and antibiotics will be given to take at home for about 5 days.

An X-ray will be performed before leaving the hospital.

Patients will be seen for a first post-operative visit in the cochlear implant clinic 1 – 2 weeks after the operation. You should keep the ear and the wound dry until you are seen. In the first two weeks keep away from crowds of other people to minimize the risk of picking up an infection. Avoid any strenuous exercise for a month.


Cochlear implantation is a significant undertaking and a major step in anyone’s life. The process is a PARTNERSHIP between the implant team and the patient or parents. It involves serious responsibilities on both sides and a successful outcome requires active participation by the patient/parents and a commitment of time and effort.  Patients will need to practice listening exercises and look after the equipment provided. The implant team will do everything in our power to achieve as good an outcome as is possible.

Dressings in hospital

On awakening there will be a large bandage around the head. This will be removed the following day.

An X-ray of the head will take place the day after surgery.

Dressings and discharge from the hospital

Patients usually leave hospital the day after the operation. On going home the only dressing will be some cotton wool in the ear/s and some Steri-Strips over the cut/s behind the ear/s. Inside the ear canal will be some antiseptic dressing. The Steri-Strips and ear canal dressing will be removed at the first visit after about 10 days. If the dressing in the ear canal falls out do not worry – it is not a problem – it does not need to be replaced. The stitches are under the skin and are absorbable – so there are no stitches to take out. The implant is placed on the surface of the skull – so there will be a bulge in the skin where the implant is.

What to expect after the operation


The amount of pain experienced varies between different people. Usually there is only minimal pain which is controlled with simple over the counter painkillers.

Regular pain killers are taken in the first few days and then as required after that. Paracetamol or simple anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen are usually enough. Antibiotics will be given to take by mouth for 5 days.


You may get some swelling behind the ear and the ear may protrude slightly but this will settle with time. Sometimes there may be swelling in front of the ear or around the eye or side of the face, again this will settle with time. Some people may experience significant bruising behind the ear, over the face or down the neck. This will resolve with time.


It is not uncommon to experience some dizziness in the first few days after the operation. This will usually settle quickly but occasionally may take a few weeks.


Tinnitus may develop or pre-existing tinnitus may worsen. This will usually lessen with time and especially when the device is activated.


You may experience popping or crackling sensations in the ear and the ear may feel as if it has liquid in it. These symptoms will settle with time.


The ear or area behind the ear may feel numb after the operation. The sensation usually returns over a few weeks but could take 6 months. Be careful using a hairdryer if the ear is numb as you may injure the skin.

Taste disturbance

The taste nerve may be irritated during the operation, and this can cause a change in taste sensation on the side of the tongue. This is nearly always a temporary problem but sometimes may take up to 6 months to recover.


If you experience any of the following, then you may have developed an infection:

  • increasing pain or throbbing in or around the ear
  • redness or swelling over the wound or behind the wound where the implant is situated
  • a high temperature

See your GP for some antibiotics and contact USAIS.


Meningitis after cochlear implantation is very rare. However, if you experience:

  • severe headache
  • high fever
  • sensitivity to light
  • neck stiffness

URGENTLY contact your GP or attend the local A&E Department.


Cochlear implantation is a big operation and although you may feel okay in hospital when you leave you can feel very tired and ‘wiped out’ for a week or so. Take life easy and get plenty of rest in the first few days.

Water exposure

We suggest keeping the wound behind the ear dry until seeing the surgeon in the clinic, which is usually about 10 days after the operation. This means very careful hair washing with help or avoiding hair washing for this period of time. If the wound does get wet carefully dab it dry.

Avoid swimming for 4 weeks.


The operated ear can be slept on once it is comfortable to do so.


Strenuous exercise or heavy lifting is to be avoided for 2 weeks.

Nose blowing / sneezing

Avoid blowing your nose and if you sneeze then sneeze with the mouth open for the first 4 weeks. The ears may feel blocked but do NOT try and ‘pop’ them by pinching the nose and blowing with a closed mouth for 4 weeks – you risk blowing air up under the skin where the implant is.


You must not drive for 48 hours as you will not be covered by your insurance company. You can drive after this if you feel well enough. Do not drive if you have been given pain killers that make you sleepy.


We advise that you do not fly for 2 months unless it is absolutely essential. The risk of damage from flying is small but we feel that it is not worth taking that risk unless it is essential for you to fly.

EXCEPTIONS for flying: For our patients from the Channel Islands and Ireland who need to fly to get to Southampton, we feel that it is reasonable to fly home 2 days after their operation.

Time off

You should have 2 weeks off school or work.