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

Dealing with cancer is terrible. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And, obviously, you want a really full and happy life!

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

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, substantial advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, 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 issues? Well, each patient is different, but generally, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some unpleasant side effects. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Hair loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Mouth sores
  • Vomiting

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

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

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.

Scientists aren’t really certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially proficient at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer

Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:

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

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

So what should you do?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • Become a patient of 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.
  • It will be easier to obtain fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it significantly easier to identify hearing loss in the future.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This could mean simple monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be effected.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Hearing loss can be caused 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.