Can You Develop Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

Dealing with cancer is horrible. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s essential to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and minimizing side effects is so significant for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could develop after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment option has its own distinctive 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 problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

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

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

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a considerable effect on the specific side effects. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy often 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 numerous forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly proficient at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a worry when you’re combating cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:

  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you’re feeling socially isolated.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Sadly, yes. Tinnitus is frequently linked to balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy 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. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to make matters worse.

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

So what should you do?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But it’s worthwhile to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Here are a number of things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:

  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
  • Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This could mean simple monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.

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

Your hearing health is important

It’s crucial to take care of your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing, consult 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 with the right plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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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