Can You Develop Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

Coping with cancer is awful. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s essential to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about controlling and decreasing side effects is so important for this reason. By discussing possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, and be in a better position to completely enjoy life after cancer.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of certain cancers in the first place! But in general, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to fight this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Each treatment method has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. 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? Well, each patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can bring on some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Those side effects can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Hearing loss

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

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term 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 forms 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 fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. 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 fighting cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:

  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, getting the correct treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Sadly, 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!
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.

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

What’s the solution?

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

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

  • It will be easier to get fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Become a patient of 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.
  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, unfortunately. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You might need hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

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

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy could 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.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

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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