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Chemotherapy can be a very beneficial treatment while fighting the battle against cancer. However, it can also have some rather severe side effects that may cause permanent impacts to the body, including hearing. Recent studies have linked platinum-based chemotherapy treatments to permanent sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in Pediatric Brain Tumor Survivors (PTSB).

Hearing loss can also contribute to deficits in executive function, verbal reasoning skills, and other cognitive dysfunction. Taking steps to mitigate this effect to preserve hearing is an important part of rehabilitation.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is based on the actual impediment taking place inside the ear and the surrounding auditory nerve. It's related to issues with the actual eardrum, ear canal, or the ear bones. A blockage due to wax or a hole in the eardrum can be the cause of this type of hearing loss. Fortunately this kind of impediment can potentially be corrected with medications or surgery.

Sensorineural hearing loss is a result of damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve which carries electrical signals from the inner ear to the brain. This type of damage is usually irreversible and unable to be corrected. Hearing devices can be very beneficial in restoring as much speech understanding as possible in those suffering from sensorineural hearing loss.


Ototoxicity is the damage to the auditory nerve caused by toxicities from Chemotherapy and radiation. There is quite a bit of research being conducted to evaluate the levels of toxicities in existing cancer treatments to determine a way to replace them with agents that will not inhibit the anti-tumor effects of the treatment.

Various antibiotics are also being evaluated as they may help reverse ototoxicity and reduce the risk of resultant damage.

Get Help Early

Symptoms of hearing loss may be noticeable after one session of treatment, or not until several sessions spanning over several months. The loss typically begins with higher sound frequencies and then eventually progresses to lower frequencies which leads to the inability to interpret sound or speech.

It’s important that cancer patients be assessed by an audiologist before they start their treatments. This allows the audiologist to determine the patient’s baseline hearing level and any distortion once the treatments commence.

Early detection and assessment of related issues are imperative in the overall care of patients battling cancer. Children who have or have survived cancer need to be monitored closely both during and after treatments to identify early signs of hearing problems or associated learning disabilities.

Long term adverse effects of several chemotherapy induced dysfunctions can continue the struggle for a cancer survivor. It takes a team of physicians working together to insure the patient is being treated in all areas affiliated with their cancer and the associated treatments.

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