Helping Cancer Patients Hear Again

In Singapore, nose cancer patients as well as patients affected by cancer in the head reagion who undergocancer treatment maybeaffected by hearing loss. Statistically, 1 in 20 persons with nose cancer and undergoing radiotherapy will be affected with a significant hearing loss and requires treatment such as hearing aids or implant.

The Audiologist will work closely with ENT doctors to determine whether a hearing aid or an cochlear implant is necessary. The concept of providing cancer patients with hearing aids or cochlear implant is fairly new in Singapore but there are long-term experience in other part of the world such as Europe and Australia. In general hearing aids will be used to improve someone’s hearing for mild, moderate and severe cases. Cochlear implant can be used to improve hearing in severe to profound cases.

Nose or nasopharyngeal cancer is the sixth most common cancer in Singapore and 300-400 cases are reported every year. Radiation when used for cancer treatment, kills the cancerous abnormal cells but it is also damaging to other healthy cells present in the head region such as cochlea. It is the most effective treatment available right now for nose cancer patients and as such, many patients, about 55 percent face some degree of hearing loss as a side effect of radiotherapy treatment and 1 in 20 can be severely affected.

However, even when it is available, patient do no opt for further treatment to improve the hearing abilities such as hearing aids or cochlear implants to correct their hearing loss problems after receiving radiotherapy. Some of them just accept the reduced quality of life and are happy that their cancer was cured and do not think about getting their hearing loss cured. Others live in fear of their cancers recurring and hearing loss is not their utmost concern.

Unfortunately that approach has an even more dramatic effect to someone’s hearing abilities as a early treatment for hearing loss is very important. If untreated a hearing loss will benefit a further deterioration of the auditory parts of our brain and will result in a permanent disability of being able to understand speech, even if treated at a much later stage. Furthermore patients with cancer might have a slightly longer acclimatization towards their new hearing as the side effects of cancer treatment can cause damage to our auditory center as well.

Previously ,it was thought that radiation damaged the auditory nerve of the patient and if its is damaged cochlear implants are not a good option for such patients.But now new findings have appeared and reveal that post radiation hearing nerves remain undamged following radiation.This is an important finding because implant works   by passing the faulty cochlea and directly stimulating the nerve to create a auditory perception.Those found to be suitable would need to undergo radiological investigations and need to be assessed by an qualified Audiologist for a pre cochlear Implant work up.

In general now a day’s technology for hearing aids and implants is far more advanced than years back and will provide the patients with a satisfactory outcome and a significant improvement of his life quality.