There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s critical to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.
This means it’s essential to talk to 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 example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing issues that could occur after chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past couple of decades. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used in tandem. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish the best course of treatment.
Do hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can produce some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of hearing
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also vary depending on the particular mix of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.
So is there a particular 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 exactly certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.
Even if you’re fighting cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of an issue when you’re fighting cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:
- 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 challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to identify hearing loss in the future.
- Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
- If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.
So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This may mean basic monitoring or it might include a set of hearing aids.
It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.
Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. 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.