Can You Develop Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

Coping with cancer is horrible. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, like hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an important thing to remember. 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 essential because of this. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that may arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be better prepared for what happens next, and be in a better position to fully enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past 20 years. There are even some vaccines that can stop the development of some cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will combat 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 determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance problems? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a mix of treatments that use strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide array of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its extremely successful track record. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Hair loss

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also vary based on the specific combination of chemicals used. Some of these side effects tend to be fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most prominent chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be an actual side effect of chemotherapy. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as 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 often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

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. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of an issue when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is important:

  • Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, 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!

Reducing 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 constantly when you’re battling cancer. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing exam.

Here are several things that visiting 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 baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.
  • If you do notice hearing loss, it will be easier to get rapid treatment.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, unfortunately. But there are treatment solutions. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the help of your hearing specialist. You may need hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be tracked.

It should be noted, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally affects the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

Taking good care of your hearing is essential. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop 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.