Can You Get Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

Dealing with cancer is terrible. Patients have to go through a really difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently disregarded. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and reducing side effects is so essential for this reason. By talking about potential hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be better prepared for what comes next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been made. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of certain cancers in the first place! But, broadly speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used in tandem. 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? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that use strong chemicals to destroy cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is often the primary treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can create some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Mouth sores
  • Hearing loss

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. Side effects might also change based on the particular combination of chemicals used. Most people are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing isn’t one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds of cancers but is most frequently used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t really certain how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially adept at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.

Even if you’re fighting cancer, you still need to pay attention to hearing loss

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a worry when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re dealing with cancer, there are substantial reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:

  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, receiving the correct treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially isolated.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to neglected hearing loss. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the outcome of chemo-induced hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy cause tinnitus too? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance issues which can also be a problem. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!

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

What’s the solution?

When you’re battling 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.

Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.
  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more complete understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Regrettably, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This might mean basic monitoring or it may include a set of hearing aids.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss often affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It may not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s crucial to pay attention to your hearing health. If you have concerns about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, talk to your care team. You might not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you formulate a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

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.