Does Chemotherapy Make You Lose Your Hearing?

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

Coping with cancer is terrible. Patients have to go through a really tough time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently dismissed. But it’s critical to keep in mind that, for a great many cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about controlling and minimizing side effects is so essential because of this. By talking about potential hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might arise 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

Cancer treatment has advanced considerably in the past 20 years. The development of some cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But in general, doctors will use one or more of three different ways to combat this disease: radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

There are unique 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 issues come with all cancer treatments? Well, every patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination of strong chemicals. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment choice for a wide array of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some uncomfortable side effects. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Hearing loss
  • Hair loss (including your nose hairs)
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Vomiting

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects might also change according to the particular mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Loss of hearing is not one of the more well known side effects of chemotherapy. But the reality is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.

So, which chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (known as cisplatin-based chemotherapy). 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 aren’t really sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly adept at causing harm to the delicate hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

Even if you’re fighting cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a worry when you’re combating cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important:

  • Hearing loss can negatively impact your mental health, especially if that hearing loss is neglected. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
  • Tinnitus and balance problems can also be the result of chemo-associated hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Unfortunately, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. You don’t want to fall when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!
  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Lots of different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.

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

What’s the solution?

When you’re battling cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But it’s worthwhile to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • It will be easier to obtain prompt treatment when you detect the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Establish a relationship with a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more in depth knowledge of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to identify.

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

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be impacted.

Your hearing health is important

Taking good care of your hearing is essential. Discuss any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy could 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 track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But with the correct plan, and a little help from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get 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.