Dealing with cancer is awful. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full 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. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could occur post chemotherapy, with your care team.
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, generally speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Each treatment method has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance issues? Well, each patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can produce some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Sores in the mouth
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Loss of hearing
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix 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 produce hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy frequently 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 types of therapies are most commonly used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.
Scientists aren’t really certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly adept at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. 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
When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss may not feel like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:
- Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
- Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to neglected hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
Decreasing 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?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.
Going to a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
- It will be easier to get fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, 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 may mean basic monitoring or it may include a pair of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It might not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s crucial to take care of your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get faster treatment.
Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.