There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as trivial. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be 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 important to speak with your care team about reducing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could develop after chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
In the past 20 years, significant advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of certain cancers in the first place! But, broadly speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used in tandem. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is often the main treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But chemotherapy can create some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hearing loss
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also change based on the particular combination of chemicals used. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo bring about hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.
So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re battling cancer
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a concern when you’re combating cancer. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:
- Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can aggravate many different conditions. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become more difficult when you’re feeling socially isolated.
- Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance problems and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often linked to balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re battling cancer. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Here are several things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:
- Establish a relationship with 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.
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.
So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? 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 assistance of your hearing specialist. You may need hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be tracked.
It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
Paying attention to your hearing is essential. Discuss any concerns you might have about how chemotherapy may 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 monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you get in front of the symptoms.