Cancer Side Effect: Hearing Loss
Finding out that you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer can be hard to come to terms with.
From diagnosis through to treatment, it’s an emotionally and physically challenging process. While the focus should be on getting treated as soon as possible, one of the most common side effects of cancer treatments is developing hearing loss, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
So, today we’ll discuss hearing loss, how it develops and how to manage it to help cancer survivors who developed hearing loss as a result of treatment.
Hearing Impacted by Cancer Treatments
Your treatment options will vary depending on what type of cancer you have and how advanced it is. However, most cancer treatments involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Like everything, each of these types of cancer treatments come with side effects, and some of them don’t become apparent until a few years down the line.
Some cancer treatment side effects can affect your auditory system resulting in tinnitus and hearing loss.
What are the Causes of Hearing Loss Related to Cancer?
As mentioned earlier, every cancer treatment comes with side effects, and some are more prominent than others.
The following cancer treatments can cause hearing loss:
If you have a tumour on your ear or temporal bone, it can damage your hearing depending on the size and location.
In addition, undergoing surgery to remove the tumours can damage the hair cells or auditory nerve, causing hearing loss.
Radiotherapy is a type of treatment that kills cancer cells and reduces the size of tumours using high dose radiation which damages the DNA inside the cancer cells. This type of treatment can prevent cancer, slow the growth of cancer or cure it altogether.
Radiation is an effective way to damage cancer cells. However, it also damages healthy cells. When radiation is used on the ear or brain, the inner hair cells can be damaged, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss.
Chemotherapy and ototoxicity
Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer, and different drugs are used depending on what type of cancer you have. Some chemotherapy drugs are known to be ototoxic, meaning they damage the organs of balance and hearing, preventing them from functioning correctly.
Cisplatin is a highly effective drug when treating certain cancers and will continue to be used despite side effects such as hearing loss.
While treatment with cisplatin carries an extremely high risk of developing hearing loss, the effects of ototoxic medication depend on several factors, including an individual’s susceptibility to the drug, the particular drug and the accumulation of the drug in the organ.
Certain antibiotics can result in hearing loss. Check with your GP and pharmacist to rule out your medication if you are unsure.
Treating Hearing Loss Developed from Cancer Treatments
Thankfully, hearing loss is a manageable condition. However, if hearing loss is left untreated, it can have a significant and negative impact on your quality of life, sometimes resulting in isolation, uncertainty and anxiety.
If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss as a result of the treatment you received for your cancer, there are a few things that you can do to manage it, including:
- Hearing Aids. These small devices allow people with hearing loss to hear a range of sounds and understand speech.
- Cochlear Implants. These are surgically inserted behind the ear to bypass the damaged parts of the ear and provide you with hearing.
As with most things, the sooner your hearing loss is identified, the sooner it can be treated. Ideally, you should undergo a hearing test before starting your cancer treatment, so there are results to compare once you’ve finished your cancer treatment.
Many cancer survivors who develop hearing loss as a side effect of their treatment don’t notice it until years later. Therefore, it’s advised that you should have an annual hearing test to monitor your hearing after you’ve received cancer treatment.
Your first hearing test with one of our qualified audiologists will determine the degree and nature of your hearing loss and what type of hearing aid or assistive listening device is right for you.
Hearing loss can be frustrating for not only you but the people closest to you, and unfortunately, it’s another challenge every cancer survivor could face. However, with the right information, diagnosis and treatment plan, you will feel confident managing your hearing loss.
If you think that you have hearing loss due to your cancer treatment, book a hearing test at your nearest Attune clinic today. You can also visit our website to see how we can assist your hearing situation.