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 is a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to remember. And, obviously, 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. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that might develop from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be more ready for what happens next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past couple of decades. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! 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 sometimes, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance issues? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can produce some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Sores in the mouth
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of hearing
- Hair loss
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a significant impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects are often pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Does chemo cause hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.
So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various forms of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially adept at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re battling cancer
When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your biggest concern. But there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is fighting 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 result in social isolation. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
So what should you do?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But it’s worthwhile 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:
- It will be easier to receive fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it substantially easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more detailed knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. This could mean simple monitoring or it may include a pair of hearing aids.
It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s critical to pay attention to your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.