It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month…And Wait…It is also Audiology Awareness Month!

October begins a month of awareness for me!  It is a month when looking up at the Willis Tower at night, its spires are lit in pink.  Watching college and NFL football with my boyfriend, I see pink accessories worn by both athletes and fans.  It is a month to bring awareness–awareness to Breast Cancer!
Breast Cancer AwarenessAccording to 1 in 8 women (12%) will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  It is a staggering statistic and a reason to draw attention to it.

October is about awareness in another form.  It is Audiology Awareness Month!  It is not as widely known about and does not trend on social media or foundations donating millions, but it is worth talking about!  According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) 1 in 8 people over the age of 12 have hearing loss in at least one ear.  That is the same statistic for breast cancer!  Though hearing loss is not life threatening, it is still a staggering statistic.

It may be hard to see the connection between breast cancer and audiology but actually they go hand in hand.  Why you ask?  Cancer of any kind requires treatment, many times of which is chemotherapy.  Hearing loss and tinnitus resulting from chemotherapy is one of the most common and lasting side effects of treatment.  One study found that after chemotherapy, 61% of the patients had permanent high-frequency hearing loss.

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause ototoxicity, resulting in hearing loss.  Ototoxic agents attack the cochlea and hair cells and cause damage to these delicate structures. Some ototoxic agents (ie aspirin in large doses) can cause temporary damage.  The bad news with chemotherapy, if ototoxic monitoring is not occurring, permanent damage can result.

Audiologists play an extremely vital role then in the care of a cancer patient.   Ototoxic monitoring, performed by an audiologist, allows for specialized audiologic testing to occur so that early signs of damage may be detected and reported.  This in turn, can help the oncologist change the dosage or duration of the specific chemo agent.

Here are some pointers to remember is you or a loved one is receiving chemotherapy (from an audiologists view).

1.  When they are discussing your chemotherapy and they discuss side effects.  Ask them if the treatment causes hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

2.  If the chemo drug has a chance of ototoxicity, make sure to have your hearing monitored during and after the course of treatment.

3.  If the drugs are ototoxic, wear hearing protection during and after a course of chemotherapy so that loud noises will not disrupt hearing as well.

4.  Hearing loss from chemotherapy can usually be improved with the use of amplification and hearing aids.

See audiology awareness and breast cancer awareness can share the same month!  Now if only we can have a ribbon that would match the pink!

A piece of advice:  When you schedule an appointment for your mammogram, schedule an appointment for a hearing test with an audiologist!

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.