Common Chemo Drug May Be Linked to Hearing Loss

hearing deaf
Adobe Stock

Key Takeaways

  • A new study links the use of the common chemotherapy drug cisplatin with later hearing loss

  • The study of testicular cancer survivors found the extent of hearing loss rose along with the dose of cisplatin taken

  • Patients may want to discuss what options they have for chemotherapy, given the findings

MONDAY, July 1, 2024 (HealthDay news) -- A 14-year study of testicular cancer survivors suggests that a chemotherapy drug could greatly raise patients' long-term odds for hearing loss.

The drug in question, cisplatin, has been a mainstay of cancer chemotherapy for decades. It's often used to fight a range of cancers, including including bladder, lung, neck and testicular tumors.

Knowing that cisplatin might impact people's hearing could help guide treatment, said study co-author Dr. Robert Frisina. He's chair of the department of medical engineering at the University of South Florida (USF).

“This research gives oncologists the information they need to explore alternative treatment plans that could reduce the long-term side effects," he said in a USF news release.

Such changes might include "altering the dosages and timing of the cisplatin in the treatment, when that could be an appropriate option,” Frisina explained.

The findings were published recently in the journal JAMA Oncology.

The study was led by Dr. Victoria Sanchez, an associate professor of otolaryngology head & neck surgery at USF. Over an average of 14 years, her team tracked the health of 100 men who'd been treated for and survived testicular cancers.

The researchers found that most (78%) of the men who received cisplatin-based chemotherapy did have some trouble with their hearing by the end of the follow-up period. Their hearing loss causing "significant difficulties in everyday listening situations, negatively impacting their quality of life," according to the USF news release.

The extent of the hearing loss rose along with the dose of cisplatin. That was especially true for folks with other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

How might cisplatin affect hearing? According to Sanchez' team, the drug is administered intravenously and permeates much of the body. However, the ears may have particular difficulty in filtering out cisplatin, allowing it to gather there.

Once in place within the ear, cisplatin may trigger inflammation and the elimination of sensory cells the ears need to code sound, the USF team explained. The result could be hearing loss that lasts long after chemotherapy ends.

Sanchez said this all supports the notion that cancer patients get routine hearing tests.

“Most patients still do not get their hearing tested prior to, during or after chemotherapy," she noted. "Our study highlights the need for regular auditory evaluations to manage and mitigate long-term hearing damage.”

More follow-up of the men in the study is planned.

"It will be critically important to follow these patients for life. Their current median age is only 48 years, and eventually they will enter the years at which age-related hearing loss also begins to develop,” said study senior author Dr. Lois Travis. She's professor of cancer research at Indiana University School of Medicine.

More information

Find out more about options for testicular cancer care at the American Cancer Society.

SOURCE: University of South Florida, news release, June 27, 2024

What This Means For You

Cancer patients whose treatment includes cisplatin may want to talk to their oncologist about possible hearing loss linked to the drug.

Related Stories

No stories found.