There are more than 200 known ototoxic medications that can cause hearing loss or damage if not properly monitored. We proactively protect your hearing health with a series of tests that detect any hearing changes affected by these medications, known as ototoxicity monitoring.
In tune with how medications may affect hearing health
Ototoxic or vestibulotoxic medications are used to treat serious infections, heart disease and cancer. While these medications are working to better treat one condition, they can lead to tinnitus or permanent, profound hearing loss if left unchecked. We can stay one step ahead of possible hearing damage with ototoxicity monitoring.
Our goal is to bring balance to your care plan because you shouldn't have to sacrifice one aspect of your health to improve another. We perform ototoxicity monitoring to identify early signs of hearing loss so that your care team can adjust treatment plans for your underlying condition and better manage symptoms.
The following conditions may be treated with ototoxic medications:
- Cancer: Medications like cisplatin, carboplatin and other chemotherapy drugs are commonly used in care plans
- Radiation therapy: Drugs will depend on the treatment site and the level of risk associated with the treatment
- Serious infections: Powerful antibiotics, including gentamicin, are prescribed to treat serious infections
- Sickle cell anemia: Desferal® is a commonly prescribed medication that removes extra iron or aluminum from the bloodstream to treat sickle cell anemia
Long-term monitoring is also necessary for drugs that contain platinum because hearing loss can develop several years after treatment is completed.
Ototoxicity monitoring regularly checks on your response to a range of sound frequencies, which are measured in hertz (Hz). Healthy ears can hear sounds ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
When it comes to ototoxicity monitoring, we pay special attention to how well a person hears high-frequency sounds (starting at 2,000 Hz), like a tea kettle whistle or bird chirping. That's because one of the first signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds.
Before you begin treatment with a potentially ototoxic drug, your audiologist will perform a baseline hearing test. From there, we'll regularly perform tests to monitor any changes to your hearing or identify potential damage to the vestibular system (the portion of the inner ear that helps control balance).
For example, if you're going through chemotherapy with Cisplatin, we'll monitor your hearing at the end of each treatment cycle.
So, what happens if we identify hearing loss resulting from ototoxic medications? We'll pass these findings along to your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of changing your dosage or exploring a new treatment path.
When hearing loss is unavoidable, we can offer solutions to lessen its impact. For example, you may be a candidate for a hearing aid or assistive listening device. Adapting to hearing loss can feel challenging, so we'll walk you through how to:
- Protect against noise-induced hearing loss
- Use good communication strategies, such as maintaining face-to-face communication and minimizing background noise
- Make accommodations at home or school for a child who has hearing loss