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 ignored. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And, obviously, you want a very full and happy life!
This means it’s essential 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 completely, for example, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could develop after chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
In the past couple of decades, substantial developments in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of certain cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used in tandem. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance issues? Well, each patient is different, but generally, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment option for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can lead to some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Sores in the mouth
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Loss of hearing
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals 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.
Does chemo cause hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.
So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? In general, 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 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 not clear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.
Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re battling cancer
Hearing loss may 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 important:
- Hearing loss has been known to cause social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, obtaining the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
- 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. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. 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 untreated. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to neglected hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
Reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to 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 let that stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.
Here are several things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:
- It will be easier to obtain fast treatment when you detect 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 picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. 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, sadly. But there are treatment options. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You may require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be monitored.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.
Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.