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

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Talking to your healthcare team about controlling and reducing side effects is so essential because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past couple of decades. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used in tandem. 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? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment choice for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can create some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also change according to the particular combination of chemicals used. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause 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 numerous forms of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t really certain how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought 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 often irreversible.

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

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:

  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Regrettably, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

Minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to speak with your care team about.

So what should you do?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect 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.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it substantially easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
  • If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. This might mean basic monitoring or it might 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 might not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But if you talk to 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.