There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s critical to remember that, for a great many cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.
This means it’s crucial to speak with your care team about reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed considerably in the past couple of decades. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Each treatment method has its own unique 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 hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Hair loss
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Sores in the mouth
- Loss of hearing
Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to vary from person to person. Side effects may also vary depending on the specific combination of chemicals used. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo bring about hearing loss?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.
So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.
Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. This can cause hearing loss that is often irreversible.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of an issue when you’re combating cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:
- Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often linked to balance issues which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can exacerbate lots of different conditions. In other words, getting the correct treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become more difficult when you are feeling socially separated.
- Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But it’s beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Here are a number of things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:
- If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain fast treatment.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
- Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You may require hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be monitored.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be impacted.
Your hearing health is important
Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy could impact 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 accordingly.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you make a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.