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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 difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently disregarded. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s crucial to speak with your care team about minimizing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may develop 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.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past 20 years. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! 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 unique 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can lead to some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Hearing loss
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Sores in the mouth

Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to differ from person to person. Side effects might also change depending on the particular combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a specific 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. These types of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers also.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. 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

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your biggest concern. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, 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!

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

So what should you do?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re battling cancer. But don’t let that stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.

Seeing a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:

  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
  • It will be easier to obtain fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of 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 specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. You may need hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It may not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate 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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