There are a number of reasons your hearing could be affected by cancer and treatment.
How your sense of hearing works
Every sound produced disturbs the air around it, causing vibrations that travel through the air as sound waves.
Your outer ear picks up these vibrations and directs them in towards the inner part of your ear. Then they are converted to nerve impulses.
These impulses travel to the brain via the auditory nerve, where the brain enables you to hear them as sound.
Treatments that can affect your hearing
Sometimes treatments for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer may affect your hearing. It may disrupt the way the ear directs sound. This is called conductive hearing loss.
If you’ve had surgery involving the jaw (maxilla) you could have swelling around the eustachian tube. This tube is part of your middle ear and connects up to the back of your nose. The swelling can cause conductive hearing loss, which makes it difficult to hear soft sounds. Your hearing usually gets back to normal once the swelling goes down.
Radiotherapy treatment can also cause this type of hearing loss.
Your hearing may change because of damage to the sensory cells of your ear and nerves. These send messages to the brain. This is called sensorineural hearing loss. It makes it difficult to hear soft sounds, and also to tell some sounds apart.
Occasionally this type of hearing problem is caused by radiotherapy treatment. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is likely to be permanent.
Coping with changes to your hearing
Although usually temporary, hearing problems can be hard to cope with. Many of your daily activities are affected.
It becomes harder to have face to face or telephone conversations. Ways of relaxing such as listening to music or the radio and watching TV may be more difficult or less enjoyable. You may get fed up with asking people to repeat things.
This can be a worry when talking to your doctors - you may be concerned that you are missing vital bits of information.
When talking to people it is important:
- that you tell people your hearing is not so good
- to ask them to speak a little louder and more clearly
- they may need to face you when speaking as this often helps
- to get rid of background noise, such as the TV or radio - ask them to turn the noise down, and explain why
If your hearing loss is likely to be permanent your doctor will probably refer you to an audiologist. An audiologist is a health professional trained in the non medical aspects of hearing loss. An audiologist will look at the degree of hearing loss you have. And they can give you treatment suited to your own particular needs.