There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Patients have to go through a really hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to keep in mind. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.
This means it’s essential 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 completely, for example, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Available cancer treatments
Cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past couple of decades. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But generally, doctors will utilize one or more of three different ways to battle this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used in tandem. 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? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But chemotherapy can bring on some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Those side effects can include:
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Hearing loss
Side effects of chemotherapy often differ from person to person. Side effects may also vary according to the particular mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?
Hearing loss isn’t the most well recognized 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, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These kinds of therapies are most commonly used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers also.
Scientists aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly adept 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.
Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer
When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your biggest concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are significant reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:
- Social isolation is often the outcome of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
- Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the result of chemo-related hearing loss. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be an issue, too. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
- Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
You’ll want to talk to your care team about reducing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.
What’s the solution?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- It will be easier to get prompt treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more complete picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. 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 pair of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register 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
Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment may not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get faster treatment.
Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you make a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.