There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to keep in mind. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.
This means it’s important to talk to your care team about decreasing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could occur post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Each treatment option 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 cause hearing and balance issues? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Loss of hearing
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Does chemo produce hearing loss?
Loss of hearing is not one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.
Scientists aren’t really certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially adept at causing damage to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.
Even if you’re fighting cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss
When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss may not seem like your biggest concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:
- Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to untreated hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
- Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Unfortunately, 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 has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
Decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.
What’s the solution?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. 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:
- Set a hearing baseline. This will make it considerably easier to identify hearing loss in the future.
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You might require hearing aids or you may just need your hearing to be monitored.
It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss usually affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.
Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But with the right plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.
The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission.
The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.