Coping with cancer is awful. As a result, patients getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s critical to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
This means it’s essential to speak with your care team about decreasing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that may arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has advanced substantially in the past 20 years. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of certain cancers in the first place! But generally, doctors will utilize one or more of three different ways to battle this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Each treatment option has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish 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.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the main treatment choice for a wide array of cancers. But chemotherapy can cause some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Those side effects can include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Loss of hearing
- Sores in the mouth
Side effects of chemotherapy tend to vary from person to person. Side effects may also vary according to the particular mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Does chemo cause hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.
So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially proficient at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.
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 most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-induced hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Well, regrettably, the answer is 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 take a fall.
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to neglected hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
- Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
You’ll want to talk to 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 battling cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam.
Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:
- Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. This will make it significantly easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
- It will be easier to get prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But there are treatment options. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You might need hearing aids or you may 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. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be effected.
Your hearing health is important
It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy may 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 appropriately.
Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.