You’re being treated for a health condition, and the medication is working as intended. But you’ve noticed you’re not hearing as well as you did before you started treatment. Could there be a connection between the healing of your body and the hearing you’ve lost? If you’ve been exposed to one of more than 200 known “ototoxic” drugs, the answer may be yes.
Ototoxic drugs include both prescription and over-the-counter medications. They cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in some individuals, as well as possibly tinnitus (“ringing in the ears”) and loss of balance.
Cisplatin, a highly effective chemotherapy agent used for testicular cancer and other solid malignancies, has been identified as a leading ototoxic compound. A study conducted by Indiana University (IU) researchers found that increasing cisplatin doses for testicular cancer patients was associated with increased hearing loss across several sound frequencies. About 40% of the patients also experienced tinnitus.
Why don’t physicians simply switch their patients to a less ototoxic treatment? In many cases, the ototoxic drug provides the best (or only) prospect for a successful outcome. For testicular cancer patients, cisplatin is particularly effective; its use has improved the cure rate from 10% to 85%, according to IU School of Medicine professor Lawrence Einhorn, M.D.
Authors of the IU study recommend comprehensive hearing assessments, preferably both before and after cisplatin treatments. “Patients should also be urged to avoid noise exposure, drugs having adverse effects on hearing and other factors that may further damage hearing,” stated lead researcher Lois B. Travis, M.D., Sc.D.
Research focused on hearing protection
IU researchers recognize the need for ongoing research that focuses on hearing protection during cisplatin administration for testicular cancer patients. For those who have other types of cancer and are found to be genetically susceptible to the ototoxic effects of cisplatin, physicians may want to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of alternative treatments, they add.
Before starting a medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects. If the drug might affect your hearing, ask whether you can switch to a non-ototoxic drug. When an alternative cannot be prescribed, a qualified hearing healthcare professional can perform baseline audiometric measurements and periodic testing before, during and after treatment.
Call Amplifon Hearing Health Care to schedule a hearing test and consultation with a provider near you.