Coping with cancer is horrible. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.
Talking to your healthcare team about managing and minimizing side effects is so significant because of this. By discussing potential hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might arise from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to completely enjoy life after cancer.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has progressed considerably in the past couple of decades. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But in general, doctors will utilize one or more of three different ways to battle 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can cause some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are a few of these side effects:
- Sores in the mouth
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of hearing
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also vary according to the particular combination of chemicals used. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo produce hearing loss?
Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is related hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.
So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. These kinds of therapies are most commonly used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers as well.
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 trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss
Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a concern when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why the health of your hearing is important:
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often associated with balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
- Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about reducing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Seeing a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:
- It will be easier to receive prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Initiate a relationship with a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
- Establish a hearing baseline. This will make it significantly easier to identify hearing loss in the future.
So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. You might need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be tracked.
It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
Taking good care of your hearing is essential. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. You may not be able to alter your 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 with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.