Coping with cancer is awful. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as trivial. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to keep in mind. And, of course, you want a really full and happy life!
This means it’s crucial to speak with your care team about reducing and dealing with side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
In the past 20 years, substantial advancements in cancer treatment have been made. The development of some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But in general, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to combat 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 all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can create some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are several of these side effects:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Hearing loss
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Sores in the mouth
Side effects of chemotherapy often differ from person to person. The particular combination of chemicals also has a substantial impact on the specific side effects. Most individuals are fairly 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?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.
So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These kinds of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought 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 tends to be permanent.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you still need to 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 considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:
- Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate lots of different conditions. In other words, obtaining the appropriate treatment (or even buying the right groceries) can become harder when you’re feeling socially separated.
- Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to untreated 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 likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to speak with your care team about.
So what should you do?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.
Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:
- Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
- If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, regrettably. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This could mean simple monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. It might not even have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
It’s crucial to take care of your hearing health. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.