October is known for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, It is also National Protect Your Hearing Month, so we thought we would talk about hearing loss in cancer treatments is one of the lesser-known side effects. It is also one of the hardest to treat.
Most people associate hearing loss with age and being around noisy environments for too long. But for many, hearing loss can be a side effect of taking certain medications, specifically ototoxic drugs, which many chemo treatments use. However, many don’t think about cancer treatment and hearing loss.
Discover the relationship between cancer treatment and hearing loss, and make sure to keep your hearing healthcare provider in the loop if you undergo hearing problems during or after cancer treatment.
Chemo Therapy and Hearing Loss
Before beginning any cancer treatment, you should speak with your doctor to determine if the specific treatment can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss as a potential side effect of chemotherapy is more likely to use platinum-based drugs, such as cisplatin or carboplatin.
These conventional chemotherapy medications can cause nerve and tissue damage in the ears, particularly in patients receiving the drugs in high doses and those with pre-existing hearing issues. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is often the first indication of this type of damage.
A recent study showed 40%–80% of adults and at least 50% of children treated with cisplatin acquired permanent hearing loss, significantly affecting life quality. Often, hearing loss symptoms don’t present themselves right away and tend to develop over time. So it is imperative to have ongoing hearing monitoring of hearing.
Radiation therapy is used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects are caused when healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area are damaged. However, there have been significant advances in radiation therapy research in recent years that have made it more precise—reducing this treatment’s side effects, compared to radiation therapy techniques used in the past.
Some people experience little to no side effects from radiation treatment. At the same time, other people experience more drastic side effects. Responses to radiation therapy often begin during the second or third week of treatment.
Radiation therapy can also cause middle and outer ear problems. These typically involve inflammation, earwax obstruction in the ear, fluid build-up, and stiff ear bones. All of these can impair your hearing. This hearing loss can become present in one or both ears, depending on the area being treated.
When it comes to cancer treatment and hearing loss, chemotherapy drugs are common culprits; however, other common medications can also lead to inner ear damaged hearing loss. Many cancer treatment regimens blend multiple ototoxic medications. As a result, the risk for hearing loss and tinnitus can increase exponentially.
- Certain aminoglycoside antibiotics like erythromycin, neomycin, gentamicin, and streptomycin, often used to treat infections
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain, including ibuprofen and naproxen sodium (Aleve)
- Medications used to regulate blood pressure like metoprolol (Lopressor)
Some anti-nausea medications, including promethazine (Phenergan)
If you are noticing any degree of hearing loss as a result of cancer treatment. Please make sure you’ rere having your hearing tested after the end of your cancer treatment. During your treatment, if you start experiencing symptoms such as hearing loss, tinnitus, or pain and discomfort, there are several treatment options:
Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco products, are all substances you should try to avoid, which can worsen tinnitus.
Treatment options for tinnitus include Tinnitus Therapy, hearing aids, counseling, and drug therapy. Hearing aids are an excellent option by amplifying everyday sounds, making it easier to hear for those feeling moderate to severe hearing loss.
For those experiencing severe inner ear damage, consider cochlear implants. This option surgically implants a hearing device that essentially replaces a damaged inner ear’s role, relieving severe hearing loss.
To learn more about hearing loss and cancer treatment, reach out to Salem Audiology Clinic in Salem, Oregon, or Woodburn Hearing Center in Woodburn, Oregon. As a family-run business, over 35 years, we have treated anyone that steps through the door like our own family. We always have the patient’s best interests in mind.
With our unmatched service and care, our dedication to patient treatment, and our commitment to helping people manage and overcome their hearing issues, you can count on Salem Audiology Clinic.
To learn more about us or to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our audiologists. Please give us a call at 971-701-6322.