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 frequently disregarded. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and reducing side effects is so significant for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about possible balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

Cancer treatment has progressed considerably in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three standard 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 hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, each patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is often the main treatment choice for a wide range of cancers. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can cause some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea

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

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well 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, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. 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 certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly proficient at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is often irreversible.

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

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a concern when you’re fighting cancer. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, yes. Tinnitus is often associated with balance issues which can also be an issue. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

Reducing 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 a lot when you’re battling cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

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

  • Begin a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to obtain fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. This might mean simple monitoring or it may include a pair of hearing aids.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be impacted.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s crucial to pay attention to your hearing health. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to be altered 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 get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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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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