Hearing Health Blog

Adult woman suffering from hearing loss after having chemotherapy treatments discussing symptoms with her doctor.

Coping with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a really difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently ignored. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential to speak with your care team about decreasing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past couple of decades. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of certain cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment method has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish the best course of treatment.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance issues? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the main treatment option for a wide range of cancers. But chemotherapy can cause some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly adept at causing damage to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Even if you’re fighting cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not seem like your biggest concern. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are significant reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:

  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is frequently linked to balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.

You’ll want to talk to your care team about minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:

  • It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
  • Establish a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be capable of helping you address and manage your hearing loss. You may need hearing aids or you may just need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Your hearing health is important

Taking good care of your hearing is essential. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get faster treatment.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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