Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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

Coping with cancer is terrible. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as trivial. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to keep in mind. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and reducing side effects is so essential because of this. By discussing possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might arise from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to completely enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

In the past 20 years, substantial developments in cancer treatment have been made. The development of some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But generally, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Each treatment method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. 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 problems? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:

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

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. These kinds of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers as well.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

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

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

  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with untreated hearing loss. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can aggravate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is often associated with balance issues which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!

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

So what should you do?

When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing exam.

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

  • It will be easier to obtain prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This might mean basic monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.

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

Your hearing health is important

Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, talk to your care team. You might not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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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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