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 really tough 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 an essential thing to remember. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about decreasing and dealing with 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.

Available cancer treatments

In the past 20 years, significant advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But in general, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are unique 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 all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can cause some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:

  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of hearing
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Vomiting

Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to differ from person to person. Side effects may also vary depending on the particular combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (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 is not one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as 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 frequently 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 especially skilled at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.

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

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

  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday 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 linked to neglected hearing loss. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, unfortunately, the answer is 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 have a fall.

You’ll want to speak with your care team about decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.

So what should you do?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:

  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
  • Establish a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth knowledge 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, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. You may need hearing aids or you may just need your hearing to be tracked.

It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Caring for your hearing is important

Taking good care of your hearing is essential. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might affect 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 faster treatment.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you get 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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