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. Patients have to go through a very hard time and some of the side effects of chemotherapy are frequently ignored. But it’s essential to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And, of course, you want a very full and happy life!

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

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has advanced substantially in the past couple of decades. 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 combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Each treatment method has its own distinctive strengths and drawbacks, and none of them are mutually exclusive. The best treatment course will be guided by your diagnosis, your prognosis, and your care team.

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

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells with a combination 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 cause some really uncomfortable side effects because these chemicals are so strong. Here are a few of these side effects:

  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of hearing
  • Vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness and fatigue

Side effects of chemotherapy tend to differ from person to person. Side effects may also vary based on the particular combination of chemicals used. Most individuals are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for instance. But not so many people are aware of chemotherapy induced hearing loss.

Does chemo cause hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But hearing loss can be a real side effect of chemotherapy. Is related hearing loss irreversible? In many cases, yes.

So is there a particular type of chemo that is more likely to result in hearing loss? Platinum-based chemical protocols (also called cisplatin-based chemotherapy) are more commonly responsible for hearing loss side effects. This type of therapy can be used on numerous kinds of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists think that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals attack and damage the little delicate stereocilia in the ears, but the precise cause-and-effect relationship is still not clear. Over time, this can trigger hearing loss, and that hearing loss is often permanent.

Hearing loss is something you want to pay attention to, even when you’re battling cancer

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

  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also result in balance issues and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be caused by chemotherapy? Sadly, yes. This tinnitus and loss of balance can be a problem, too. When you’re recovering from chemotherapy, the last thing you need is to have a fall.
  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. If you’re feeling isolated socially, it can become tedious to do daily activities, especially getting appropriate treatment.
  • Hearing loss, especially neglected hearing loss, can negatively affect your mental health. Anxiety and depression are closely linked to untreated hearing loss. Somebody who is battling cancer already has a heavy weight on their shoulders and the last thing they need is extra anxiety and depression.

You’ll want to speak with your care team about minimizing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.

So what should you do?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re battling cancer. But it’s worthwhile to add one more appointment to your list: schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.

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

  • Set a hearing baseline. This will make it significantly easier to recognize hearing loss in the future.
  • It will be easier to obtain fast treatment when you notice the signs or symptoms of hearing loss.
  • Initiate a relationship with a hearing professional. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more complete picture of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment can look like.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, no matter the cause. But there are treatment possibilities. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you treat and manage your hearing loss. You may require hearing aids or you might simply need your hearing to be tracked.

It should be mentioned, too, that the majority of chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. Your day-to-day hearing may not even really be effected.

Caring for your hearing is important

Paying attention to your hearing is crucial. Talk over any concerns you might have about how chemotherapy could affect your hearing with your care team. You may not be able to change treatment options, but at least you’ll be able to closely monitor your symptoms and treat them appropriately.

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