Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?

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

Dealing with cancer is horrible. Patients have to go through a very difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But it’s important to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And, obviously, you want a really full and happy life!

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about decreasing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for instance, if you discuss possible balance and hearing issues that could develop after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past 20 years, significant advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. 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.

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

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Well, each patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can cause some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Loss of hearing
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue and tiredness

Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to differ from person to person. Side effects may also change depending on the specific combination of chemicals used. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Loss of hearing is not 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 frequently yes.

So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. 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 unclear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Even if you’re battling cancer, you still need to pay attention to hearing loss

Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re fighting cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even in the midst of battling cancer:

  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
  • Social isolation is often the outcome of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, receiving the appropriate treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become more difficult when you are feeling socially separated.

Minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to speak with your care team about.

What’s the solution?

When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. 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 visiting a hearing specialist will help with:

  • Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more detailed knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to get prompt treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing specialist will be capable of helping you treat and manage your hearing loss. You may require hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be tracked.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It may not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to pay attention to your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you develop 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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