The Effects of Cancer and Treatment on Your Hearing Health
It’s World Cancer Day and there are probably not too many people who can say their life hasn’t been touched, directly or indirectly, by this disease in any of its forms.
The fight against cancer seems like a behemoth task for the many doctors and researchers patients rely on to save their lives. But sometimes when cancer is beaten, hearing loss and tinnitus remain. One may assume that’s not a bad trade-off, all things considered.
One source of hearing problems can be tumours, such as those caused by acoustic neuromas and metastatic cancer.
Acoustic Neuromas are non-malignant tumours located in the auditory vestibular nerve. Metastatic cancer, particularly breast cancer, can affect your hearing health.
Patients may typically experience hearing problems, dizziness or imbalance.
Although necessary in the efforts to preserve life, like any medical treatment or drug, cancer treatments have side effects. We usually hear about hair loss, loss of appetite and feeling sick to your stomach, but not so much about hearing loss.
For instance, some of these life-saving drugs are ototoxic, meaning they can cause damage to the inner ear. This damage to the inner ear, can lead to hearing impairment.
In some cases your hearing loss can be restored to normal once you’ve stopped taking the prescribed treatment. In other cases hearing loss is permanent.
Tinnitus, known as ringing in the ears, and vertigo are often the first symptoms to appear when taking ototoxic drugs. These symptoms usually develop quickly.
Hearing loss caused by chemotherapy vs. radiation therapy
Sensorineural hearing loss refers to damage of the inner ear, so it’s often associated with chemotherapy.
Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, affects the outer and middle ear, so it’s often associated with radiation treatment.
Baseline hearing test
It’s recommended that you get a baseline hearing test before beginning cancer treatment. This can give you and your doctor an idea of whether or not any hearing loss already exists.
If a hearing loss exists, a complete hearing evaluation will also identify your level of hearing impairment and provide a clearer starting point from which to monitor any changes in your hearing health.
It’s also recommended that you tell your physician about any changes you perceive in your hearing.
On World Cancer Day we salute all survivors, those we’ve lost, those still fighting, and the many medical professionals working tirelessly on a cure.