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

Dealing with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a really difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, obviously, you want a very full and happy life!

Talking to your healthcare team about controlling and reducing side effects is so significant for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could occur after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, significant developments in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But generally, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to battle this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

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 combination of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can produce some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Hearing loss
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a substantial impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on various forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly certain how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially skilled at causing damage to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer

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

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Hearing loss has been known to cause social isolation. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. In other words, receiving the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially isolated.

You’ll want to talk to 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 scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

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 complete picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.

So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This may mean simple monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.

It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s crucial to pay attention to your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to your care team. Your treatment may not be able to be altered 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 make 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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