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Does Chemotherapy Cause You to Lose Your Hearing?

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 dismissed. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to keep in mind. 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 reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable developments in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! But, broadly speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used in tandem. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are a few of these side effects:

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

Side effects of chemotherapy often vary from person to person. The particular combination of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. This can cause hearing loss that is often irreversible.

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

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss might not seem like your biggest concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:

  • 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 challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance problems which can also be a problem. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.

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

So what should you do?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly 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 prompt treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
  • Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it substantially easier to identify hearing loss in the future.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? 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 might require hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be mentioned, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It may not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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.