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

Coping with cancer is terrible. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about minimizing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing issues that could arise after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, substantial developments 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 make use of one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. 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? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is often the leading treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can create some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Those side effects can include:

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

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects are often pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.

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

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer

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

  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can aggravate 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, especially if that hearing loss is untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, 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 recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!

Decreasing 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.

So what should you do?

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

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

  • Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, unfortunately. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You may require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be impacted.

Your hearing health is important

Taking good care of your hearing is essential. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you make 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.