Hearing Problems

Please note: I am not a medical professional and the below information is based on my own research and experiences only. You need to seek professional medical advice if you have concerns about your hearing or any other health issues.

Hearing Loss  is sadly a common side effect of radiotherapy to the head, although, in truth, I do not know how much this statement applies to more modern Gamma knife type therapies. According to various articles, symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss tend to present clinically at least 12 months after treatment. Sensorineural hearing loss relates to issues in the inner ear (the cochlea and related structures), vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII), or the central auditory processing centers of the brain. Sadly there is no current cure, although there is hope that, due to modern advances in medical treatment, this will one day change.

Before panicing, be aware that you may not be subject to hearing loss and, if you are, it will hopefully only be partial hearing loss like me, for which you may need a hearing aid.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids do help but are not always as useful in situations where there is a lot of background noise, which can be frustrating. For example, you will probably find that it is more challenging understanding what people are saying in conversations in places like busy restaurants. Learning to live with and accept your new situation is, in my view, the best plan. If you are a bit vain, like me, you may find wearing them in public a worry, but in truth they are not really all that noticeable.


Future Treatments

There is hope. Future treatments will probably one day be available to counteract sensorineural hearing loss. These include:

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cells can be used to replace and repair damaged cells, hence the viability of this treatment in tackling hearing loss. Stem cell therapy could be useful in cases where hearing loss is associated with extensive cell loss and it may also one day be possible to use stem cells in order to replace or repair damaged areas in the ear that lead to hearing loss.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy aims to treat hearing loss by restoring damaged ear cells.  The treatment protocol involves injecting a harmless virus, engineered to carry a therapeutic gene, into the cochlea. There is a lot of research currently taking place in relation to this therapy.