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Why you should get a hearing test before starting chemo
Posted by Roseann B. Kiefer, BC-HIS on September 13, 2022
If you end up with breast cancer…often the last thing on your mind would be the possibility of damaging your hearing. You want the cancer out of your body fast…and permanently. You want answers and solutions from your medical team. While you will hear the risks…the benefit of staying alive will outweigh all the risks and side effects for most of us.
October brings Breast Cancer to the forefront of medical care this month. I think we all know someone who has battled cancer. Some people will win the fight, some will lose the fight, and others will continuously battle. Different chemotherapy drugs produce different side effects. There is weight loss, hair loss, and nausea, pain, headaches, just a multitude of events that the patient must endure. While these treatments have improved survival rates, they also increase patients’ risk to ototoxic its. The reasons for hearing loss while taking chemotherapy are because of the use of chemotherapy agents like cisplatin and carboplatin,
These treatments are very successful in attacking the cancer, but they can cause ototoxicity. Chemotherapy weakens the body’s immune system and often patients are prescribed high doses of antibiotics which are also know to contribute to hearing loss. Ototoxicity or damage to the inner ear begins in the extreme upper hearing frequencies. These upper ranges are above where normal speech usually occurs; thus, chemotherapy patients usually are not aware at the time that a hearing loss is setting in. Usually as the chemotherapy treatment continues the hearing loss will become more noticeable. Often this hearing loss will also be accompanied by tinnitus. (Ringing, buzzing, chirping). Dizziness may also be present. During your treatments you should schedule regular hearing exams to monitor your hearing. Hearing may continue to degrade even after chemotherapy treatments have stopped.
Hearing loss can occur from many things. It may come on gradually as we age, may be hereditary, or possibly there was noise exposure in your life. Hearing loss that is caused by ototoxicity different. It can come on suddenly and can range from mild hearing loss, or tinnitus to near deafness. There is no cure for ototoxicity. However, there are ways to cope with the symptoms. Contact your hearing health care provider for your hearing test before starting chemo. If you experience a hearing loss due to ototoxicity, then your hearing provider will have the necessary background to help you. You may need hearing instruments. You may need hearing instruments with tinnitus sound therapy management capabilities, or perhaps another form of tinnitus sound therapy that can help to control ringing and buzzing in your ears.
One of my colleagues at Starkey Hearing Technologies; Mary Leisses (Mary is Starkey's Director of Network Education & Training), She had emotional and physical scars from her ordeal. If there was a treatment that existed, then she tried it. She was given much advice from people as to what to do and not to do. However, she was a very type "A" personality and she realized very quickly that what works for one person or what one could handle is very different among individuals. So, along with her physical and emotional scars she ended up with tinnitus. According to Mary; "good old-fashioned tinnitus. On bad days it gets worse. When I have too much coffee, it gets worse. It's always there and it’s not going to get any better." During her second round of chemo doctors too an aggressive approach with antibiotics aimed at minimizing her risk of infection. Mary ended up having a reaction to the medicine and wound up with tinnitus upon the completion of her treatment. She believes it was the antibiotics and not the chemo drugs that damaged her inner ear. " You put poison in your body and then you take more poison to counteract the poison that is being used to fight the cancer" she said. While Mary lost her battle with Brest cancer, she continued to her need to help others learn by sharing her journey with her cancer. Rest In Peace Mary we all miss you.
According to Kelly Macauley Frost, AU.D., CCC-A, there is active research in ototoxicity. Cancer researchers are looking at agents that might prevent hearing loss but won’t inhibit the anti-tumor effects of the cancer treatments. Antibiotics that might reverse the effects of ototoxicity are being studied as well as the development of chemo drugs that will not cause hearing loss.
Everyone should have a baseline hearing evaluation for your medical profile. If you are undergoing Chemo, then you should be monitoring your hearing with periodic tests. This monitoring and scheduled testing provides valuable information as to your pattern and progression of your hearing loss. This information allows your hearing health care provider to best treat your hearing and tinnitus if so needed. If we can help, then just call. Phone Number: (863) 385-3497. To Hear Better Is To Live Better!