How Cancer Treatments Affect Your Hearing Health

Since October is cancer awareness month, we’d like to talk about how cancer treatments can affect your hearing health. As chemotherapy agents become more successful and patients live longer, healthier lives, survivors are experiencing side effects that can seriously impact quality of life. One such impact is ototoxicity — damage to the inner ear by a toxin.

While cancer patients may not immediately experience or associate hearing loss with their cancer treatments, doctors have confirmed that treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lead to hearing problems. About 50% of chemotherapy patients are treated with drugs that include platinum, which may damage fine nerve endings inside the ears causing tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and/or other types of hearing loss. According to Dr. Julian Schink, Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, nearly 1 in 5 patients treated with Carboplatin, a chemotherapy medication commonly used for breast cancer patients, is affected by hearing loss.

Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy damages cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells. According to Curesearch, outer and inner ear inflammation and earwax fluid buildup are common side effects for radiation therapy. It can also cause the bones in the ear to stiffen. These side effects can all result in hearing loss.

Those at Highest Risk for Hearing Loss

  • Other risk factors for hearing loss before the diagnosis of cancer (such as prior treatment with aminoglycoside antibiotics, low birth weight, or meningitis).
  • Were younger than 4 years of age at the time that they received treatments that can cause damage to the ear.
  • Received cisplatin or carboplatin.
  • Received radiation to the ear, brain, nose, sinuses, throat, or mid-facial area behind the cheekbones.
  • Had a tumor, surgery, or severe infection that involved the brain, ear, or auditory nerve, or required placement of a shunt.
  • Received more than one type of treatment that can cause hearing loss (such as the combination of brain radiation and cisplatin chemotherapy, or treatment with both cisplatin and carboplatin chemotherapy)
  • Had poor kidney function at the time that they received chemotherapy or other medications that can damage hearing.

Doctors and scientists are aware of the negative effects some cancer treatments have on patient hearing and are paying closer attention to these effects. Aside of raising patient awareness on the side effects of these medications and monitoring side effects more closely, strides have also been made in providing solutions. For example, there are now medications that help to prevent ototoxic hearing loss. For patients who are already experiencing hearing loss tied to their treatments, hearing aids are a great solution. As with all types of hearing loss, it is important to have your hearing assessed by a hearing care professional to find the best solution for your type of hearing loss.

Get Your Hearing Checked at Kenwood Hearing Center

If you’re experiencing hearing loss or have questions about hearing aids and hearing loss, come and visit the hearing care professionals at Kenwood Hearing Center. Contact us today and schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Ohio hearing center locations: Bowling Green, Toledo, or Wauseon. The hearing care professionals at Kenwood Hearing Center are here for you.

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