If you or a loved one has undergone treatment for cancer, it is important to know that a variety of radiation and chemotherapy procedures can put you at risk for changes in hearing. Oncologists and surgeons, if you are reading this, please don't wait until your patients complain. If your patients are at risk, send them for a baseline hearing evaluation. Changes in hearing may happen gradually and hearing loss can progress even years after therapy has ended.
But it's not just hearing sensitivity that can be affected. The way we process or interpret speech can also degrade. As a patient, it is critical to clearly understand all of the medical information that is presented. Health care providers need to take special care in communicating. Face to face conversation and speaking slowly and distinctly is key. Looking down at a computer, turning away or covering your mouth makes communication more difficult.
Tinnitus or ear noises is another possible consequence of cancer treatment. Tinnitus can adversely affect concentration and sleep patterns. Getting sleep is key for recovery. Tinnitus sufferers can suffer from undue stress. The good news is that tinnitus can be treated. Another reason to see an Audiologist.
Lastly, earwax can change. Someone who never had a problem before may find that wax builds up faster or the consistency, color or texture, is different than it used to be. A significant amount of earwax can impact hearing. Make sure that your ears get checked regularly.
Not all cancer treatments impact hearing but awareness and follow up is key. If anything in this blog resounds with you, schedule an appointment to see an Audiologist. We'd love to meet you.