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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Senses

Hearing

Hearing problems are a late effect that is more likely to occur after treatment for certain childhood cancers.

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Treatment for these and other childhood cancers may cause hearing late effects:

  • Brain tumors.
  • Head and neck cancers.
  • Neuroblastoma.
  • Retinoblastoma.

Radiation to the brain and certain chemotherapy drugs increase the risk of hearing loss.

The risk of hearing loss may be increased in childhood cancer survivors after treatment with either of the following:

  • Certain chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin or high-dose carboplatin.
  • Radiation therapy to the brain.

Risk may also be increased in childhood cancer survivors who were young at the time of treatment (the younger the child, the greater the risk) or received radiation therapy to the brain and chemotherapy at the same time.

Hearing loss is the most common sign of hearing late effects.

These symptoms may be caused by hearing late effects:

  • Hearing loss.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Too much hardened wax in the ear.

Hearing loss may occur slowly over time or may occur several months or years after treatment ends. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Talk to your child's doctor if your child has any of these problems.

Certain tests and procedures are used to detect (find) and diagnose health problems in the ear and hearing problems.

These and other tests and procedures may be used to detect or diagnose hearing late effects:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Otoscopic exam: An exam of the ear. An otoscope is used to look at the ear canal and the eardrum to check for signs of infection or hearing loss. Sometimes the otoscope has a plastic bulb that is squeezed to release a small puff air into the ear canal. In a healthy ear, the eardrum will move. If there is fluid behind the eardrum, it will not move.
  • Hearing test: A hearing test can be done in different ways depending on the child's age. The test is done to check if the child can hear soft and loud sounds and low- and high-pitched sounds. Each ear is checked separately. The child may also be asked if he or she can hear the high-pitched hum of a tuning fork when it is placed behind the ear or on the forehead.
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