Hearing Loss or Tinnitus

What are hearing problems?

Some cancers and cancer treatments may cause hearing problems. These problems can include:

  • Hearing loss: Difficulty perceiving sound in one or both ears. It is of three types – sensorineural (due to problem with nerve/inner ear), conductive (due to problem in outer or middle ear) and mixed. 
  • Tinnitus: Ringing or other abnormal sounds in the ears

Hearing loss and tinnitus can happen alone or together. They might go away after some time, or they might be lifelong. Hearing problems can affect your quality of life.

How bad are my hearing problems?

Mild: Subjective change in hearing in the absence of documented hearing loss. Needs to be confirmed and quantified on a hearing exam.

Moderate: Hearing loss that limits instrumental activities of daily life, but is not severe enough to require a hearing aid or intervention. Needs to be confirmed and quantified on a hearing exam.

Severe: Hearing loss that limits self-care. A hearing aid or intervention is indicated after confirmation on a hearing exam.

How to manage mild hearing problem?
  • Protect your ears from loud noises
  • Control your blood pressure and diabetes
  • Ask your doctor about medications for nausea or dizziness if you have these problem
  • Quickly treat ear infections or allergies
How to manage moderate and severe hearing problems?

Consult an ear, nose throat specialist (ENT or otolaryngologist) if you are experiencing:

  • ear pain
  • active drainage or bleeding from an ear
  • sudden onset, severe, or rapidly progressive hearing loss
  • acute, chronic, or recurrent episodes of dizziness.
What are the causes?
  • Certain antibiotics (erythromycin, neomycin, gentamicin, streptomycin, and tobramycin).
  • Chemotherapy medicines (cisplatin and carboplatin) can damage your inner ear. Tinnitus is often the first sign of this type of damage. Hearing problems from chemotherapy usually happen in both ears.
  • High doses of radiation therapy to the head, ear, or brain can damage the inner ear. Radiation therapy can cause middle and outer ear problems.
  • Surgery on the brain, ear, or auditory nerve can cause hearing problems.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen and naproxen).

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