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

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Patients have to go through a very hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently disregarded. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

This means it’s important 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 completely, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could occur after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past 20 years. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of some cancers in the first place! But generally, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to fight this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Each treatment method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Well, each patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment option for a wide variety of cancers. But chemotherapy can create some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant impact on the specific side effects. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). 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 tiny delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the exact cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer

Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re fighting cancer. But there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Social isolation is often the outcome of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you’re feeling socially separated.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is frequently associated 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, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.

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

What’s the solution?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.

Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it significantly easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.
  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. You might need hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. It may not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to pay attention to your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing, consult your care team. You might 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 with the right plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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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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