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

Coping with cancer is horrible. Patients have to go through a really difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to keep in mind. And, obviously, you want a very full and happy life!

Talking to your healthcare team about managing and reducing side effects is so important for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing issues that could occur after 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 some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But in general, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to battle 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 guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the main treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But chemotherapy can cause some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:

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

Side effects of chemotherapy often differ from person to person. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for example). But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Hearing loss isn’t the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. This can trigger hearing loss that is often irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not seem like your biggest concern. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance issues which can also be an issue. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to neglected hearing loss. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, obtaining the correct treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.

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

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re fighting cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.

Here are several things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:

  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • It will be easier to receive fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it considerably easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. 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 caused by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Your hearing health is important

Paying attention to your hearing is essential. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you get in front of the symptoms.

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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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