Does Chemotherapy Cause You to Lose Your Hearing?

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 receiving cancer treatment will in some cases feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as trivial. But it’s critical to keep in mind 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 speak with your care team about decreasing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. By talking about possible hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems that might develop from chemotherapy, for example, you’ll be better prepared for what happens next, and be in a better position to completely enjoy life after cancer.

Cancer treatment options

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

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 problems come with all cancer treatments? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. For a wide variety of cancers, chemotherapy is the main course of treatment because of its very successful track record. But chemotherapy can create some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are several of these side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and tiredness

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. Side effects might also change depending on the specific mix of chemicals used. Most individuals are fairly well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy-caused hearing loss.

Can hearing loss be brought about by chemotherapy?

Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does cause hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.

So, which chemotherapy often comes with long-term hearing loss? Generally speaking, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various kinds of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are especially skilled at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is frequently irreversible.

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

Hearing loss may not seem like that much of a concern when you’re fighting cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are considerable reasons why the health of your hearing is relevant:

  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely associated with neglected hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is added anxiety and depression.
  • Hearing loss has been known to lead to social isolation. Many different conditions can be aggravated by this. In other words, receiving the appropriate treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
  • Tinnitus and balance issues can also be the outcome of chemo-induced hearing loss. So, now you’re thinking: hold on, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Sadly, yes. Tinnitus is frequently linked to balance problems which can also be an issue. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to take a fall.

You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing 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 beneficial to add one more appointment to your list: make an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. Your hearing specialist will have a more comprehensive understanding of the state of your hearing and its needs, if you do have hearing loss.
  • It will be easier to get prompt treatment when you experience the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Set a hearing baseline. Then, if you develop hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.

So, can hearing loss from chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss has no cure, regrettably. 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 may require hearing aids or you may simply need your hearing to be monitored.

It should be noted, 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

It’s crucial 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 might not be able to alter your treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

Chemotherapy can cause hearing loss. But with the right plan, and a little assistance 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.