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

Dealing with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a really hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. 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 meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential to speak with your care team about decreasing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might arise from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what happens next, and be in a better position to completely enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, significant developments in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, generally 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 in tandem. 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment choice for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can bring on some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Loss of hearing

Side effects of chemotherapy often vary from person to person. Side effects may also change based on the particular mix of chemicals used. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-caused 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 the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re battling cancer

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a worry when you’re combating cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:

  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. This can exacerbate lots of different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely connected 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.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be a problem. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.

Minimizing 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?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.

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

  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You might need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss usually affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you might have about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing with your care team. You might not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

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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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