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Cancer Treatment and Your Hearing
Some of the drugs that are used in the treatment of cancer can be ototoxic (toxic to the ear). The patient should discuss their medication and possible side affects with their physician. If a patient is currently taking one of these medications, audiological monitoring should be completed.
The frequencies that are first affected by ototoxic drugs are those not typically tested (8,000-20,000 Hz). High frequency monitoring would inform physicians of early effects of ototoxicity allowing a possible change in the patients treatment. Monitoring of ones hearing would allow the patient to be aware of their communication abilities.
In the early stages of ototoxicity, the high frequency hearing loss that occurs would make listening in background noise more difficult. Later, when other lower frequencies become affected, there may be a decrease in hearing ability in all situations. A patient may also complain of tinnitus and dizziness.
Audiological monitoring (which should include pure tone testing, 250-20,000 Hz and speech discrimination testing) should be completed
1. Before overall treatment is started.
2. Before each scheduled course of medication.
3. Six to eight weeks after final treatment.
4. With report of decrease in hearing or complaints of tinnitus or dizziness.
5. The pediatric population may be tested more often.
The audiological monitoring may improve family and patient awareness of the impact of hearing loss. A patient can also be informed about possible amplification options available (ex. personal hearing aids, loaner hearing aids, assistive listening devices).