Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?

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

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Because of this, patients receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s important to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s important to speak with your care team about reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing problems that could occur post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

In the past couple of decades, significant advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. The development of some cancers can even be avoided with vaccines. But in general, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to battle this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and in some cases, they’re used together. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to determine the best course of treatment.

Do hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Normally, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

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

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Loss of hearing
  • Hair loss

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a considerable impact on the specific side effects. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to cause hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used for other cancers as well.

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

Hearing loss is something you want to keep your eye on, even when you’re fighting cancer

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

  • Hearing loss, particularly neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to neglected hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Social isolation is frequently the outcome of hearing loss. This can aggravate lots of different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Regrettably, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.

Decreasing other health issues while you’re fighting cancer will likely be a priority, and something you’ll want to talk to your care team about.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s constantly when you’re fighting cancer. But it’s beneficial 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 fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Begin a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, no matter the cause. But there are treatment options. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. You may require hearing aids or you may just need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss usually 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

It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy might impact your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you consult 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.