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 terrible. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to disregard cancer treatment side effects, such as hearing loss, as insignificant. But for a large number of cancer survivors, there will be a life after cancer and that’s a pretty important thing to remember. And you want that life to be as meaningful and prosperous as possible.

This means it’s essential to speak with your care team about minimizing and managing side effects caused by your treatment. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you talk about potential balance and hearing issues that could develop post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Cancer treatment options

Cancer treatment has progressed considerably in the past couple of decades. The development of certain cancers can even be prevented with vaccines. But, generally speaking, there are still three basic ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are unique drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. The best treatment course will be determined by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance issues? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but every patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy is a mixture of treatments that use strong chemicals to kill cancer cells. Because of its very successful track record, chemotherapy is frequently the leading treatment option for a wide variety of cancers. But chemotherapy can bring on some very uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so powerful. Here are a few of these side effects:

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

Side effects of chemotherapy have a tendency to vary from person to person. Side effects may also change according to the specific mix of chemicals used. Most people 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.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

Loss of hearing is not one of the better known side effects of chemotherapy. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many instances, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more typically responsible for hearing loss side effects. These kinds of therapies are most often utilized to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers, but they can be used on other cancers also.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the general sense is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly proficient at causing harm to the fragile hairs in your ear. This can cause hearing loss that is often 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 an issue when you’re battling cancer. But even when you’re coping with cancer, there are substantial reasons why your hearing health is relevant:

  • Social isolation is frequently the result of hearing loss. This can exacerbate many different conditions. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become laborious to do everyday activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively impact your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely connected to untreated hearing loss. Battling cancer can, similarly, increase depression and anxiety, so you don’t want to make matters worse.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance issues and tinnitus. So, now you’re thinking: wait, does chemotherapy lead to tinnitus too? Sadly, 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!

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 fighting cancer, your life becomes a laundry list of doctor’s appointments. But don’t let that stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing exam.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do several things:

  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more complete understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • Set a baseline for your hearing. This will make it substantially easier to detect hearing loss in the future.
  • If you do detect hearing loss, it will be easier to get fast treatment.

So if you experience hearing loss from chemo, can it be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, regardless of the cause. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you address and manage your hearing loss. This may mean simple monitoring or it might include a set of hearing aids.

It’s mostly frequencies in the higher register that go when your hearing loss is caused by chemo. It may not even have any impact on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s essential to pay attention to your hearing health. Talk over any worries you may have about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing with your care team. You might not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely track your symptoms and treat them accordingly.

Chemotherapy can cause 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.

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.