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 dismissed. But it’s important to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is 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 minimizing side effects is so important because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could arise after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past 20 years, significant advancements in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can lead to some uncomfortable side effects. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of hearing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. 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 frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These kinds of therapies are most commonly utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.

Scientists aren’t really 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 frequently irreversible.

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

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

  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be exacerbated by this. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become more difficult when you’re feeling socially isolated.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is frequently associated with balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is untreated. Untreated hearing loss is closely associated with 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.

Decreasing 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?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.

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

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

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. You may require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

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

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may 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 keep an eye on your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the right plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find 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.