Can You Get Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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 getting cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s critical to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there will be life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

This means it’s important to talk to your care team about reducing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that might develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be more ready for what happens next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

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

Do hearing and balance problems come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a combination of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment choice for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can produce some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Loss of hearing
  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Vomiting

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to vary from person to person. The particular mix of chemicals also has a significant effect on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be fairly visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that’s not always the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.

Does chemo produce hearing loss?

Hearing loss isn’t the most well known chemotherapy side effect. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is frequently yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). These types of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers too.

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

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

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 substantial reasons why the health of your hearing is important:

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, regrettably, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. This can exacerbate lots of different conditions. 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 untreated. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Someone who is fighting cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is more anxiety and depression.

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 don’t allow that to stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • Establish a hearing baseline. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
  • 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. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more in depth picture 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, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You might require hearing aids or you might just need your hearing to be monitored.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is due to chemo. It might not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Caring for your hearing is important

It’s essential to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any worries you might have about how chemotherapy may affect your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But if you talk to your hearing specialist, they will help you develop a plan that will help you get 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.

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