There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, of course, you want a really full and happy life!
This means it’s important to talk to 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 discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
In the past 20 years, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But generally, doctors will use 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 in tandem. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can create some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hearing loss
Every patient responds 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 are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo produce hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.
So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These kinds of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers as well.
Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of an issue when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are substantial reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:
- Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is frequently associated 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.
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to 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 extra anxiety and depression.
- Hearing loss has been known to cause social isolation. Lots of different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about decreasing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
So what should you do?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it substantially easier to identify hearing loss in the future.
- Establish a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
- If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.
So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, sadly. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This could mean simple monitoring or it might include a set of hearing aids.
It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. You might not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.