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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 very difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently disregarded. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential 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 fully, for instance, if you discuss possible balance and hearing problems that could occur after chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past 20 years. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, broadly speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

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

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy destroys 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 powerful, chemotherapy can produce some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:

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

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, 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. This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.

Even if you’re fighting cancer, you still need to keep your eye on hearing loss

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss might not seem like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are significant reasons why your hearing health is relevant:

  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

You’ll want to talk to your care team about decreasing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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

  • If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
  • Begin a relationship with a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, unfortunately. 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. This may mean basic monitoring or it might include a set of hearing aids.

It should be mentioned, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be effected.

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult 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 faster treatment.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find 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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