Does Chemotherapy Cause You to Lose Your Hearing?

Adult woman suffering from hearing loss after having chemotherapy treatments discussing symptoms with her doctor.

There’s nothing that’s good about cancer. As a result, patients receiving cancer treatment will sometimes feel compelled to dismiss cancer treatment side effects, including hearing loss, as insignificant. But it’s critical to remember that, for a lot of cancer patients, there is life after your disease. And, obviously, you want a really full and happy life!

Speaking with your healthcare team about managing and decreasing side effects is so significant because of this. You’ll be able to enjoy life after cancer more fully, for instance, if you discuss potential balance and hearing problems that could arise post chemotherapy, with your care team.

Available cancer treatments

Cancer treatment has progressed substantially in the past couple of decades. There are even some vaccines that can prevent the development of some cancers in the first place! But, broadly speaking, there are still three standard ways that doctors will combat this serious disease: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

There are distinctive drawbacks and strengths to each of these, and sometimes, they’re used together. Your care team will use your diagnosis and prognosis to establish the best course of treatment.

Do all cancer treatments lead to hearing and balance issues? Usually, these side effects only accompany chemotherapy, but each patient is different.

Chemotherapy – what is it?

Chemotherapy kills cancer cells with a blend of strong chemicals. Because of its extremely successful track record, chemotherapy is often the leading treatment option for a wide variety of cancers. But because these chemicals are so strong, chemotherapy can create some unpleasant side effects. Those side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting
  • Mouth sores

Every patient reacts to chemotherapy in their own way. The particular mix of chemicals also has a substantial effect on the specific side effects. Most people are pretty well aware of some of these symptoms, like hair loss for example. But not so many individuals are aware of chemotherapy related hearing loss.

Does chemo bring about hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not the most well recognized chemotherapy side effect. But the truth is that chemotherapy can and does bring about hearing loss. Is hearing loss from chemo permanent? In many cases, yes.

So, what type of chemotherapy frequently comes with long-term hearing loss? In general, hearing loss tends to be most common with platinum-based chemical protocols (called cisplatin-based chemotherapy). This type of therapy can be used on various forms of cancers but is most often used to treat head, neck, and gynecological cancers.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how the cause and effect works, but the basic thought is that platinum-based chemotherapy chemicals are particularly skilled at causing damage to the fragile hairs in your ear. Over time, this can cause hearing loss, and that hearing loss tends to be permanent.

Even if you’re battling cancer, you should still keep your eye on hearing loss

When you’re battling cancer, hearing loss might not feel like your most pressing concern. But there are significant reasons why your hearing health is important, even in the midst of battling cancer:

  • Hearing loss has been known to result in social isolation. Many different conditions can be exacerbated by this. In other words, getting the appropriate treatment (or even purchasing the right groceries) can become harder when you are feeling socially separated.
  • Hearing loss can negatively affect your mental health, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated. Neglected hearing loss is closely associated with increases in depression and anxiety. Fighting cancer can, similarly, increase anxiety and depression, so you don’t want to add more fuel to that fire.
  • Chemotherapy-caused hearing loss can also lead to balance problems and tinnitus. So can tinnitus also be triggered by chemotherapy? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Tinnitus is often connected with balance problems which can also be an issue. You don’t want to fall down when you’re recovering from your chemotherapy treatment!

You’ll want to speak with your care team about reducing other health concerns while you’re fighting cancer.

What’s the solution?

You’re at the doctor’s a lot when you’re fighting cancer. But don’t let that stop you from setting up an appointment for a hearing test.

Visiting a hearing specialist will help you do a number of things:

  • If you do experience hearing loss, it will be easier to obtain rapid treatment.
  • Become a patient of a hearing specialist. If you experience hearing loss, your hearing specialist will have a more extensive understanding of your needs, your health history, and what your hearing treatment should be.
  • Establish a baseline for your hearing. Then, if you experience hearing loss in the future, it will be easier to detect.

So, can hearing loss as a result of chemo be reversed? No matter the cause, sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, sadly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a treatment. Your hearing loss can be treated and managed with the assistance of your hearing specialist. This may mean basic monitoring or it may include a set of hearing aids.

It should be noted, too, that most chemotherapy-caused hearing loss normally impacts the higher-range of hearing frequencies. It might not necessarily have any effect on your day-to-day hearing.

Your hearing health is important

It’s critical to take care of your hearing health. Talk over any concerns you may have about how chemotherapy may impact your hearing with your care team. Your treatment may not be able to change but at least you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your symptoms and to get more rapid treatment.

Hearing loss can be induced by chemotherapy. But if you consult your hearing specialist, they will help you make a plan that will help you stay in front of the symptoms.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


    Parkside Audiology

    Tampa, FL

    3825 Henderson Blvd
    Suite 600
    Tampa, FL 33629

    Call or Text: 813-686-6858

    Mon-Thu: 8am – 4:30pm
    Friday, By appointment only

    Tampa, FL Google Business Profile

    Schedule Online

    Find out how we can help!

    Call or Text Us