Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?


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

Coping with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a very tough time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often disregarded. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about minimizing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, substantial advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But generally, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Each treatment method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

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

  • Loss of hearing
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Sores in the mouth

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also vary according to the specific combination of chemicals used. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on numerous forms of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t really certain 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 trigger hearing loss that is often irreversible.

Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your most pressing concern. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of 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 tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, 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 speak with your care team about minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Going to a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:

  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing specialist will be capable of helping you treat and manage your hearing loss. You may need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be tracked.

It should be mentioned, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss usually affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be impacted.

Caring for your hearing is important

Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. Talk over any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

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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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