There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s essential to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there is 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 significant because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about possible balance and hearing problems that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past couple of decades. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of certain cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Each treatment method 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 all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance issues? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are limited to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment option for a wide variety of cancers. But chemotherapy can bring on some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are several of these side effects:
- Hair loss
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Loss of hearing
- Mouth sores
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also change depending on the specific mix of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.
Does chemo bring about 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 frequently yes.
So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous forms of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still unclear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is usually permanent.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still pay attention to hearing loss
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of an issue when you’re battling cancer. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, 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, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to untreated 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 lead to social isolation. This can aggravate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become challenging to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
Minimizing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to speak with your care team about.
So what should you do?
You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re battling cancer. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Here are a number of things that seeing a hearing specialist will help with:
- Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
- Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to recognize.
- It will be easier to obtain prompt treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, regrettably. But there are treatment options. 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 monitored.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. It may not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.
Your hearing health is important
Taking good care of your hearing is crucial. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to 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 more rapid treatment.
Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.