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 really tough time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often dismissed. But it’s essential to remember that, for a great many 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 reducing side effects is so significant for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could arise after chemotherapy, with your care team.

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 certain 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 unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used in tandem. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can cause some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Hair loss
  • Sores in the mouth

Side effects of chemotherapy often differ from person to person. Side effects may also vary depending on the particular mix of chemicals used. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers too.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re battling cancer

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your biggest concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:

  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Untreated hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance problems and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is often associated with balance problems which can also be a problem. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.

Decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer will most 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 a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • Begin a relationship with a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
  • It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. You may need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be tracked.

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

Your hearing health is important

It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. Discuss any worries you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with 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 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.

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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.

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