The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment have been well known for many years. But only recently has research addressed the risk of hearing loss and related conditions reported by many post-cancer treatment patients. Studies have related a strong link between hearing loss and cancer treatments, especially among certain chemotherapy medications.
It is important for patients to understand the risk of ototoxicity (hearing loss due to medication) when treating cancer, and its long-term implications, which could include permanent hearing loss.
Ototoxicity and cancer treatments
Some chemotherapy medications or radiation therapy can cause ototoxicity, which can results in temporary or permanent hearing loss, depending on the type of treatment and the extent of hearing damage.
Some chemotherapy can affect the inner ear where cochlear hair cells vibrate in response to sound waves. This damage may affect vital hearing and balance information to the brain, resulting in hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or loss of balance.
Platinum-based chemotherapy medications, such as carboplatin or cisplatin, are of primary concern regarding their ototoxicity. Other potentially ototoxic chemotherapy drugs include Bromocriptine, Bleomycin, Vincristine, Vinblastin, and Methothrexate Nitrogen mustard.
Ototoxicity in adults
Physical effects of hearing loss including balance issues and a greater likelihood of falls over time, especially in older adults. Hearing loss has also been linked to instances of dementia and cognitive decline.
Psychological effects include depression, isolation, anxiety, anger, and poor self-image.
Because of the long-term effects of hearing loss in adult cancer survivors, and the debilitating effects associated with the condition, oncologists do their utmost to avoid ototoxic exposure during treatments. When aggressive treatment is required, and the patient experiences hearing loss, it’s important to consider treatment options such as hearing aids, which can help most patients with hearing loss. As cancer treatments have become more successful, with patients living longer, hearing loss treatment is an important part of the patient’s quality of life after chemotherapy.
Talk with Dr. Dena about your hearing improvement options after cancer treatment.