There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients getting cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s critical to keep in mind that, for a great many 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 reducing side effects is so essential because of this. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that might develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.
Cancer treatment options
In the past 20 years, considerable 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 in general, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to fight this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Each treatment option has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish the best course of treatment.
Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy kills 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 because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Hearing loss
- Mouth sores
Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable effect on the specific side effects. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.
So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on numerous forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss
Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a worry when you’re battling cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-induced hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is frequently linked to balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly 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 added anxiety and depression.
Minimizing 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?
You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But it’s worthwhile to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.
- Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. 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 can look like.
- Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it considerably easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This may mean simple monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.
It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It may not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing, talk to your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.