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

Dealing with cancer is horrible. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to keep in mind. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

Talking to your healthcare team about managing and minimizing side effects is so significant because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, substantial advancements in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! But in general, doctors will utilize one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of hearing
  • Mouth sores
  • Vomiting

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also vary depending on the specific combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Even if you’re fighting cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss

Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a concern when you’re combating cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important:

  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
  • Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate lots of different conditions. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become more difficult when you’re feeling socially isolated.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance issues which can also be a problem. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.

You’ll want to speak with your care team about decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re battling cancer. But don’t let that stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. This might mean basic monitoring or it may include a set of hearing aids.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. It may not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing with 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 more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you get 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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