Can You Get Hearing Loss From Chemotherapy?

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

Coping with cancer is horrible. Patients have to go through a really difficult time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often disregarded. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there is a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as full and prosperous as possible.

Speaking with your healthcare team about controlling and minimizing side effects is so important because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more completely, for example, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could occur post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

In the past couple of decades, considerable advancements in cancer treatment have been accomplished. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of some cancers in the first place! But, generally speaking, there are still three typical ways that doctors will fight this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment method has its own unique strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish the best course of treatment.

Do hearing and balance issues 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 use strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. For a wide range of cancers, chemotherapy is the primary course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can create some unpleasant side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:

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

Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular combination of chemicals also has a significant impact on the specific side effects. Some of these side effects tend to be pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be caused by chemotherapy?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is chemo-induced hearing loss irreversible? The answer is often yes.

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

Scientists believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the tiny delicate 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 might not seem like that much of an issue when you’re combating cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is important:

  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Unfortunately, yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall when you’re recuperating from your chemotherapy treatment!

Minimizing 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 a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But it’s important to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

Here are a number of things that visiting a hearing specialist will help with:

  • Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. Your hearing specialist will have a more detailed understanding 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 identify hearing loss in the future.
  • It will be easier to get fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be cured? Sadly, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible, regardless of the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. 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’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. It might not necessarily have any effect 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 concerns 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.

Hearing loss can be caused by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you make 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.