Coping with cancer is terrible. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s critical to keep in mind that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. 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 essential for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
In the past couple of decades, considerable developments in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three basic 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 determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance problems? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is often the primary treatment choice for a wide range of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can lead to some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Loss of hearing
- Mouth sores
Side effects of chemotherapy tend to vary from person to person. Side effects may also vary depending on the particular combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss
When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your biggest concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Untreated hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
- Social isolation is often the outcome of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about decreasing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.
Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:
- If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
- Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You may need hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.
It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be impacted.
Your hearing health is important
It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment might not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get faster treatment.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you get in front of the symptoms.