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

Coping with cancer is terrible. Patients have to go through a really hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently dismissed. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s crucial to talk to your care team about decreasing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. By discussing possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that may develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what happens next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? 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 variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Loss of hearing
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Vomiting

Side effects of chemotherapy often vary from person to person. Side effects might also change based on the particular combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often fairly 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?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly 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 on other cancers too.

Scientists aren’t exactly certain how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not seem like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:

  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. 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.
  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Well, unfortunately, the answer is 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!

You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.

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

  • Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it substantially easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.
  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive 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 rapid treatment.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. 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 might require hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Your hearing health is important

It’s crucial to pay attention to your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing, consult 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 appropriately.

Chemotherapy can trigger 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.

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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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