Hearing Loss and Tinnitus are Found after Certain Chemo Treatments

Cancer survivors who received chemotherapy are more likely to experience hearing loss and tinnitus as those who did not, according to a study published I the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. It is important to establish a baseline with a hearing evaluation before you begin chemotherapy with a hearing test at Hearing Health. The professionals at Hearing Health can then keep tabs on your hearing as well as any tinnitus you may experience and work with your oncologist.

Cancer survivors evaluated

Researchers asked 609 cancer survivors to complete questionnaires evaluating their hearing loss, tinnitus, stress symptoms and quality of life. The results indicated 68.6% had chemo induced issues while 31.4% did not. Of those with chemo induced issues, 42.4% reported hearing loss and/or tinnitus. The test concluded that cancer survivors needed to be evaluated for neurotoxicity and receive appropriate interventions including referrals to audiologists and hearing therapists.

Cure with a cost

While most patients don’t associate chemotherapy with hearing loss and tinnitus, it is a very real side effect. Many common chemotherapy drugs contain the heavy metal platinum. Some common chemotherapy drugs, especially those used to treat ovarian, testicular, colon and rectal cancers can cause hearing loss particularly in those patients receiving high dosages.
About half of all chemotherapy patients are treated with drugs that contain platinum. Heavy metals can damage the myelin sheath, the membrane that forms around nerves and protects them.

Chemotherapy drugs, especially cisplatin can damage the cochlear hair cells in the ear that vibrate in response to sound waves. The damage can not be repaired. Doctors and researchers acknowledge the problem, but these drugs are so effective at treating cancer, their use is paramount to treatment.

Platinum based drugs and their use

The three most common drugs used in chemotherapy are Cisplatin, Carboplatin and Oxaliplatin. Cisplatin is used to treat a variety of small cell cancers including lung, bladder, cervical, ovarian, testicular and head and neck cancer. Carboplatin is used to treat lung cancer, head and neck cancer, uterine, cervical, breast, bladder and testicular cancer. Oxaliplatin is used in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

One in five patients who are treated with Carboplatin experience hearing loss. In all the drugs, hearing loss tends to be cumulative and slow to progress. It moves faster and is more apparent in those who already are experiencing hearing loss. Researchers tested the hearing of 67 patients age 8 months to 23 years following chemotherapy and found 61 had some hearing loss. Typically, the hearing areas affected were higher frequency sounds, so adults found the loss less noticeable. Children were at the most risk.

Philosophies are changing

Oncologists have known for years that hearing loss is a side effect of chemotherapy. New advancements in cancer treatments mean more and more doctors are paying attention to chemotherapy and the side effect of hearing loss, researchers have concluded. In the past, patients were just happy they could call themselves cancer survivors. Now, medical advancements have moved the treatment philosophy into also considering the quality of life after chemotherapy.

It is recommended that doctors have a baseline hearing test for their patients and monitor hearing loss as well as the issue of tinnitus. There can be dosage or drug changes during chemotherapy to adjust to these issues and make them more manageable. This is part of the philosophy of treating the “whole” patient and not just the cancer. There are drugs that can be administered with the chemotherapy drugs to reduce the hearing loss risk, but those also come with side effects including increased nausea and vomiting.

Hearing devices help

The hearing loss experienced from chemotherapy as well as tinnitus issues can be treated with hearing aids. There are literally dozens and dozens of models to choose from that can enrich your hearing experience and compensate for hearing loss as a side effect to chemotherapy. Many of the models also come with built in tinnitus therapy. The important thing to consider is your overall health and, well, your continued survival. At Hearing Health, you can find a caring team of professionals to monitor your hearing during cancer treatments and help you adjust if needed, to hearing loss. The first thing is to get a hearing evaluation to establish a baseline and then keep up a regular routine, so your hearing health is monitored.