Coping with cancer is horrible. Because of this, patients getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including 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 you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.
Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and minimizing side effects is so significant because of this. By discussing potential hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be better prepared for what happens next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.
Available cancer treatments
In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But generally, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to battle this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used in tandem. 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is often the primary treatment option for a wide range of cancers. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Loss of hearing
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hair loss
- Sores in the mouth
Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to differ from person to person. Side effects might also change based on the specific mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo produce hearing loss?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy frequently 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. These kinds of therapies are most commonly utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.
Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re fighting cancer. But there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can aggravate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
Decreasing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.
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 scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.
Here are several things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more in depth picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
- 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 reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing specialist will be capable of helping you address and manage your hearing loss. This could 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. It may not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to 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 accordingly.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the right plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.