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Martin Smith

1st December 2015

Cancer Treatment & Hearing Loss


Hearing loss and chemotherapy, what you need to know

I think everyone is aware that hair loss, weight loss, and nausea are side effects of chemo treatment. They are certainly the most visible and recognisable side effects of chemotherapy. However, few are aware that one of the hidden side effects of chemo is ototoxicity, it damages the structures of the ear and causes hearing loss.

What Chemo Drugs Damage Hearing?

  • Cisplatin
  • Carboplatin

Both drugs are used to treat a variety of different cancers. If you or someone you know is taking these drugs, we recommend you have a conversation regarding their effects on your hearing.

What Are The Signs of Damage?

Tinnitus: ringing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ears

Hearing loss: hearing may continue to decrease even after chemotherapy treatments end

Dizziness: Occasionally chemo treatment can cause dizziness

Increasing Survival Rates

With dedicated cancer research and technological advances in targeting cancer, the treatment of cancer has come a long way in recent years. Many cancers that were once fatal are now treatable. Survival rates are increasing for many common types of cancer. While this can only be seen as great news, it means that survivors of cancer are experiencing longer-term side effects as a result of their treatment. One of those side effects is hearing loss, here’s what you need to know if you are undergoing chemotherapy.

How common is hearing loss from chemotherapy?

It is difficult to estimate how many people will get a hearing loss as a result of chemotherapy treatment. However, according to the University of Arizona Cancer Center,

“Hearing loss has become one of modern cancer therapy’s most prevalent side effects. In fact, hearing loss is among the most underreported, yet potentially devastating, side effects endured by many chemotherapy patients.”

How can I develop hearing loss from chemotherapy?

A main reason why hearing loss is a side effect of chemotherapy is the use of chemotherapy agents like cisplatin and carboplatin. These treatments are very successful life saving treatments for cancer, but unfortunately, they can cause ototoxicity, or toxic damage to the inner ear. 

Ototoxicity tends to start damaging the high frequencies of hearing. Most sounds in speech commonly occur in lower frequencies, for this reason, chemotherapy patients often don’t realise that it is happening. As treatment continues, the hearing loss can become worse, more noticeable and tinnitus can occur.

What Can You Do?

There is little that can be done to protect yourself from hearing damage. However, you should get a hearing test before starting chemotherapy treatment. This will establish a baseline for your hearing which can be used to determine whether or not your hearing becomes worse during and after treatment.  

You should then take a hearing test on a semi regular basis during and after the treatment. This really is the only way to monitor your hearing during treatment. Unlike many types of hearing loss, hearing loss from chemo toxicity can come on suddenly.  

Is there a treatment for ototoxicity?

There is no cure for ototoxicity from chemo, but there are ways you can address the hearing loss and other symptoms. Hearing aids may well be a good solution for you and if you have tinnitus, there are tinnitus management devices and other forms of tinnitus sound therapy that can also help control any ringing and buzzing in the ears. If you are worried about hearing loss from ototoxicity or any other cause, give us a call on 01316291819.  

Speak To Us If You Are Looking For any information on hearing loss or Relief From Your Tinnitus in Edinburgh

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