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 hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently ignored. But it’s essential to remember that, for a great many cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, obviously, you want a very full and happy life!

This means it’s crucial to speak with your care team about minimizing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, significant developments in cancer treatment have been made. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. 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 method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

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 bring on some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Hearing loss
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Sores in the mouth

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a substantial effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-induced 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 related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense 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 often 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 battling cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-induced hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Someone 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.

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

So what should you do?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending 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:

  • It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This may mean basic monitoring or it may include a pair of hearing aids.

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

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy could impact your hearing with your care team. You might 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 with the right plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get 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.