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Facing and fighting cancer can be one of the scariest and most challenging experiences a person can go through. With such a life-threatening disease, doctors will use the best possible treatments in their arsenal to help you beat it. While these treatments may save your life, they often carry severe side effects, which you should be aware of before, during and after treatment. While nausea and hair loss are commonly recognized, many people do not know that some cancer treatment can cause hearing loss.

Cancer Treatment and Hearing Loss

Some kinds of chemotherapy are known to cause hearing loss. Depending on the particular drug used, your inner hair cells, auditory nerve, and the blood cells that surround these organs, can be damaged by the medication. This can cause permanent hearing loss that can begin during treatment, or even some months afterwards.

Radiation is also known to cause hearing loss, particularly when administered to the head, ear or brain. Radiation can also cause inflammation in the outer or middle ear, and in some cases can stimulate the production of wax or other fluids in the ear.

Often when undergoing cancer treatment other medications are administed to fight infection or reduce discomfort. These other medications can also be ototoxic, and can also cause permanent hearing loss.

Monitoring and Managing

The most important thing to know is not to stop your treatment. Your oncologist should discuss the side effects of your treatment with you before it begins, but if you want to be sure, it’s best to ask your doctor about any possible hearing damage. If you are undergoing any of the treatments known to be harmful to the ear, your hearing should be tested by an audiologist before you begin to establish a baseline. It should then be monitored between each course of chemotherapy, if you notice any change in hearing, and again once you have completed your treatment. Remember that the drugs may stay in your system for some time, so a retest may be required some time later as well.

If your hearing changes, you oncologist may consider adjusting your treatment. However, it is crucial that you do not stop or alter your treatment without your doctor’s recommendation. Once your hearing loss has stabilized, your audiologist will discuss management options moving forward.

If you have any questions about cancer treatments and hearing loss, or if you would like to book a hearing assessment, please contact us. Remember, any medical decisions surrounding cancer treatment should be made in consultation with your oncologist.