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William J. Gradishar, MD, FACP, FASCO


Does Neurotoxic Chemotherapy Induce Hearing Problems in Cancer Survivors?

By: Sarah Lynch
Posted: Friday, September 2, 2022

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing and School of Medicine conducted a study to evaluate the potential relationship between hearing problems (hearing loss and tinnitus) and neurotoxic chemotherapy. Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD, FAAN, of the UCSF School of Nursing, and colleagues found that of the survivors of the most common cancers, more than 50% experienced some hearing loss, and more than 35% experienced tinnitus. These findings were published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

The study included 273 survivors of breast, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, or lung cancer; all patients self-reported measures of hearing loss and tinnitus and underwent an audiometric exam that tested frequencies from 0.25 kHz to 16.0 kHz. Each audiogram was then evaluated using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey–modified Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to account for differences in age and gender among patients.

If any frequency score below the 50th percentile for age and gender was reported, the survivor in question was determined to have sustained hearing loss. If a survivor was conscious of tinnitus for at least 10% of their time awake, they were determined to have tinnitus. Various tests were used to evaluate the results according to differences among the chemotherapy groups (eg, platinum alone, taxane alone, both platinum and taxane).

Few significant differences were found between the three chemotherapy groups in terms of demographic and clinical characteristics. The audiogram results demonstrated rates between 52.3% and 71.4% for hearing loss. The rates for self-reported tinnitus ranged from 37.1% to 40.0%. In terms of the occurrence rates for hearing loss and tinnitus among all patients, no major differences were found among the three chemotherapy groups.

Based on their study findings, the investigators indicated that cancer survivors being treated with neurotoxic chemotherapy should be screened for hearing problems on a routine basis. In addition, these survivors may benefit from an audiogram to evaluate the need for a hearing aid.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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