Dealing with cancer is terrible. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s important to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
This means it’s essential to talk to your care team about minimizing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But in general, doctors will make use of one or more of three different ways to fight this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, 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 problems come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Sores in the mouth
- Loss of hearing
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Fatigue and tiredness
Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial effect on the specific side effects. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?
Hearing loss isn’t the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.
So, which 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 kinds of therapies are most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers too.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially adept at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer
Hearing loss may not seem like that much of an issue when you’re fighting cancer. But there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even while you’re battling cancer:
- Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is often associated with balance problems which can also be a problem. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
- Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to neglected hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
Minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to speak with your care team about.
What’s the solution?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- It will be easier to obtain prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
- Set a hearing baseline. This will make it significantly easier to identify hearing loss in the future.
So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, unfortunately. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. You may need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be tracked.
It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally 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 crucial to take care of your hearing health. Discuss any worries you may have about how chemotherapy might affect your hearing with your care team. You might not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.
Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. 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.