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

Coping with cancer is terrible. Patients have to go through a very hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often disregarded. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential 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 example, if you discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could arise after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been made. The development of some cancers can even be prevented 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 sometimes, 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 every patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is often the primary treatment choice for a wide range of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Sores in the mouth
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent 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 little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. This can cause hearing loss that is often irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a concern when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is relevant:

  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the outcome of chemo-induced hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

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

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But it’s worthwhile 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:

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

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, 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. You may require hearing aids or you may just need your hearing to be tracked.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be effected.

Your hearing health is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. Talk over any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing with 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 accordingly.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. 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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