Some cancers can be treated with just surgery. This is often the hope by the patient as well as the physician. However, the use of chemotherapy and/or radiation is usually a game player that is necessary.
Both chemotherapy and radiation treatment can damage your hearing. In some patients the hearing loss may not be obvious at first. The hearing loss may start with some high pitched ringing in the ears. Radiation therapy in the proximity of the head or neck may damage the auditory nerve or cochlea/inner ear. The cochlea or inner ear is where your hearing hairs or celica is located. There are actually about 26,000 hairs that get stimulated by sound pressure. The auditory nerve receives the signal from the cochlea and then sends it up to the brain for the brain to interpret. Damage to either of these organs compromises your ability to hear and understand. It may damage one or both of your ears depending upon the area of treatment and is usually permanent.
Three chemo drugs are known to cause ototoxicity, which is damage to the hearing cells in your inner ear. The symptoms of ototoxicity is a temporary or permanent hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and nausea. These drugs are: Cisplatin (Platinol), Carboplatin (Paraplatin), Mechlorethamine. These specific drugs are known to cause hearing loss in up to 29% of breast cancer patients. Other medicines that can contribute to hearing loss and may be used in conjunction with the chemo drugs include: high dosage of aspirin, anti-nausea meds; promethazine (Phenergan), Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), heart and blood pressure meds: metoprolol (Lopressor), diuretics: furosemide (Lasix) and acetazolamide (Diamox), and aminoglycoside antibiotics: erythromycin, gentamicin, tobramycin or streptomycin.
If you are going to start cancer treatments then you should put a hearing evaluation on your checklist, just like vision and dental checks. If you notice any of the above symptoms, contact your oncologist immediately to try and minimize the hearing damage. To Hear Better Is To Live Better!
Roseann B. Kiefer, B.A., BC-HIS, is owner of Lampe and Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Sebring. This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure your condition. Always talk to your doctor before following any medical advice or starting a diet or exercise program.