Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?

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

Coping with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a very difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But it’s critical to remember that, for a great many cancer patients, there is life after your disease. 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 essential for this reason. By discussing possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may develop from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past 20 years. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of certain cancers in the first place! But in general, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to fight this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used in tandem. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is often the main treatment choice for a wide range of cancers. But chemotherapy can produce some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of hearing
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also change depending on the specific combination 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.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.

So is there a particular 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. This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

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

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your biggest concern. 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 result of chemo-induced hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, obtaining the correct treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.

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

What’s the solution?

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

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

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. This will make it substantially 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 that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This could 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 normally impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s crucial to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy may 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.

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

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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