Dealing with cancer is terrible. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s critical to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
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 fully, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed considerably in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But in general, doctors will utilize 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 in some cases, they’re used in tandem. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance issues? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the main treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can produce some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Hearing loss
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Mouth sores
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well 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 often yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds 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 tiny delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a concern when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
- Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance issues which can also be a problem. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Here are a number of things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect 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.
- Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
- It will be easier to get fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This could mean basic monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It may not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you might have about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to alter your 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 with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.