Does Chemotherapy Cause You to Lose Your Hearing?

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

Dealing with cancer is awful. Patients have to go through a very difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often ignored. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to keep in mind. And, of course, you want a really full and happy life!

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and decreasing side effects is so important for this reason. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for instance, if you talk about possible balance and hearing issues that could develop after 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, broadly speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment option 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 problems? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can lead to some unpleasant side effects. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Mouth sores
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

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 hearing loss from chemo permanent? The answer is often yes.

So, what type of 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. These kinds of therapies are most commonly utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.

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 fragile hairs in your ear. This can trigger hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

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

When you’re fighting cancer, hearing loss may not seem like your most pressing concern. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even while you’re battling cancer:

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance problems and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Sadly, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
  • Social isolation is often the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is neglected. Untreated hearing loss is closely related to 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 extra anxiety and depression.

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

What’s the solution?

When you’re fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing exam.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:

  • Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it considerably easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.
  • Establish a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more precise understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to obtain prompt treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.

So if you get hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, sadly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing specialist will be capable of helping you address and manage your hearing loss. This might mean basic monitoring or it may include a pair of hearing aids.

It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss usually impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be impacted.

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. Discuss any worries you may have about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing with your care team. Your treatment might not be able to be altered but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get faster treatment.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to find effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.

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.