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 getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to keep in mind. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential to talk to your care team about reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, significant 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 typical ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize 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 because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These kinds of therapies are most commonly utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers also.

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

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

Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re combating cancer. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Unfortunately, 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 take a fall.
  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.

Decreasing 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 battling 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.

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

  • Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. This might mean simple monitoring or it may include a set of hearing aids.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It may not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, talk to 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.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

Call Today to Set Up an Appointment

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. CALL US