Coping with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a very tough time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often disregarded. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
Speaking with your healthcare team about controlling and minimizing side effects is so important for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could occur post chemotherapy, with your care team.
Cancer treatment options
Cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past couple of decades. The development of some 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.
Each treatment method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do all cancer treatments cause hearing and balance issues? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can bring on some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are several of these side effects:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Sores in the mouth
- Hearing loss
- Hair loss
Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial effect on the specific side effects. Most people are fairly 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?
Loss of hearing isn’t one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.
So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term 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 various forms of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.
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 harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.
Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss
When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your most pressing concern. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are significant reasons why your hearing health is relevant:
- Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. This can aggravate many different conditions. In other words, receiving the appropriate treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you’re feeling socially isolated.
- Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.
- Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Regrettably, yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.
Minimizing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer will most likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.
What’s the solution?
When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes never-ending doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that 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 detect hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.
- It will be easier to get fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
- Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.
So if you develop hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You might require hearing aids or you might 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. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.
Caring for your hearing is important
It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.
Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you make a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.