Does Chemotherapy Cause You to Lose Your Hearing?

Adult woman suffering from hearing loss after having chemotherapy treatments discussing symptoms with her doctor.

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. As a result, patients receiving 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 lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Talking to your healthcare team about controlling and reducing side effects is so important because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past 20 years, substantial advancements in cancer treatment have been made. The development of certain cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three standard 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 guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but generally, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment choice for a wide range of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some uncomfortable side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Vomiting

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. Side effects might also vary depending on the particular combination of chemicals used. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that isn’t always the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers too.

Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the exact 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 pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss may not seem like your most pressing concern. But there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even in the midst of battling cancer:

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. 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 recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.

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

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • It will be easier to get prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a hearing baseline. This will make it substantially easier to identify hearing loss in the future.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You might need hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be monitored.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. It might not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to pay attention to your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you might have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But with the right plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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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