There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to keep in mind. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
This means it’s essential to talk to your care team about reducing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has advanced significantly in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? Well, each patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can produce some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Sores in the mouth
- Hearing loss
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also vary according to the specific mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing is not one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy frequently 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. These types of therapies are most commonly used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.
Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly adept at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer
When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not seem like your biggest concern. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:
- Social isolation is often the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. In other words, obtaining the correct treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become more difficult when you’re feeling socially separated.
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to untreated hearing loss. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about reducing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.
So what should you do?
You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.
Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:
- Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
- 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.
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.
So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. You may require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. It may not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult your care team. You might not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.