There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. Patients have to go through a really hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are often disregarded. But for a great number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s an essential thing to remember. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!
Speaking with your healthcare team about controlling and decreasing side effects is so essential for this reason. By discussing possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues that might arise from chemotherapy, for instance, you’ll be more ready for what comes next, and be in a better position to truly enjoy life after cancer.
Available cancer treatments
In the past couple of decades, substantial 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, 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 in tandem. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.
Do hearing and balance issues come with all cancer treatments? Well, each patient is different, but in general, these side effects are restricted to chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy – what is it?
Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that utilize strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its highly successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the primary treatment option for a wide array of cancers. But because these chemicals are so powerful, chemotherapy can create some uncomfortable side effects. Here are a few of these side effects:
- Sores in the mouth
- Hearing loss
- Hair loss
- Tiredness and fatigue
Every patient responds to chemotherapy in their own way. Side effects may also change depending on the specific mix of chemicals used. Some of these side effects are often pretty visible and well known (hair loss, for instance). But that isn’t necessarily the case with chemotherapy-induced hearing loss.
Does chemo produce 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 related hearing loss irreversible? In many instances, yes.
So is there a specific type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most prevalent 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 believe that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little fragile stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.
Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re fighting cancer
Hearing loss might not seem like that much of a worry when you’re battling cancer. But there are considerable reasons why your hearing health is relevant, even in the midst of battling cancer:
- Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. Many different conditions can be aggravated 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, especially if that hearing loss is untreated. Neglected hearing loss is closely related to increases in depression and anxiety. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
- 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? Sadly, yes. Tinnitus is frequently connected with balance issues which can also be a problem. When you’re recouping from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
You’ll want to speak with your care team about decreasing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.
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: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Going to a hearing specialist will help you do several things:
- Begin a relationship with a hearing professional. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
- Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.
- It will be easier to receive fast treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Regardless of the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, regrettably. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This could mean basic monitoring or it might include a pair of hearing aids.
It’s mostly frequencies in the higher range that go when your hearing loss is triggered by chemo. Your day-to-day hearing might not even really be impacted.
Your hearing health is important
Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. If you’re worried about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing, consult your care team. Your treatment might not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to track your symptoms and to get faster treatment.
Chemotherapy can trigger hearing loss. But with the correct plan, and a little assistance from your hearing specialist, you’ll be able to get effective treatments that keep you hearing better longer.