Hearing Problems

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Hearing problems can include hearing loss and ringing in your ears (tinnitus). Hearing problems can occur naturally and gradually as you get older, but they also can be a side effect of some breast cancer treatments.

Signs you may have a hearing problem:

  • Hearing sounds (ringing, buzzing, humming, or whooshing) in your ear when no external sounds are present. The noises may vary in pitch or switch from ear to ear.
  • The sounds are loud enough to interfere with your concentration or muffle or distort surrounding noises.
  • Having trouble carrying on a conversation, watching television, or falling asleep because of the sounds.

Chemotherapy used in breast cancer treatment may cause hearing problems.

In rare cases, hearing problems can be permanent, but they usually go away after you've finished chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your doctor about any hearing changes you have. You may be able to get a lower dose of chemotherapy.

Other pain, antibiotic, and anti-nausea medications can cause hearing problems. If you suspect your hearing problems are caused by medications you're taking along with treatments for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about switching medications.

Managing hearing problems

Try the following tips to help manage hearing problems:

  • Reposition your head if you’re hearing annoying internal sounds. Tilting your head from side to side may stop the noises.
  • Tell your friends and family about your problem and ask them to speak slowly and clearly. Ask them not to shout -- shouting can be even more harmful to your ears.
  • Avoid stress and anxiety because they can make tinnitus worse. Read tips on managing anxiety.
  • Stay away from loud noises.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can contribute to tinnitus.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Tiredness can make tinnitus worse. Use a fan, soft music, or quiet radio static to mask inner ear noise when you're trying to sleep.
  • Keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. High blood pressure can make hearing problems worse.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine -- they can make your symptoms worse.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you:
    • develop severe ear pain
    • begin vomiting
    • lose your vision or hearing completely
    • lose consciousness because of dizziness
    • have a fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher

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