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

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Patients have to go through a really tough time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently disregarded. But it’s essential to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about minimizing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. By discussing potential hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable developments in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three typical 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. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance issues? Normally, 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 array of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds 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 general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially proficient at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer

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

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Someone 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. This can aggravate many different conditions. In other words, obtaining the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially isolated.

Reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re battling cancer. But don’t let that stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

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

  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more detailed understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.

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 help of your hearing specialist. This might mean simple monitoring or it may include a set of hearing aids.

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

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get 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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