Can You Develop Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Patients have to go through a very difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. 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.

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

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of some cancers in the first place! But generally, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

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 restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. For a wide range 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 produce some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Mouth sores

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also vary based on the particular mix of chemicals used. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. These types of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.

Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially skilled at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. This can trigger hearing loss that is often irreversible.

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

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing 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 can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. In other words, obtaining the correct treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to untreated hearing loss. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.

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

So what should you do?

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

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

  • It will be easier to receive 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.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.

So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. 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 range that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. It might not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. Discuss any worries you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment might not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get faster 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 get in front of the symptoms.

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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