Changes to hearing after treatment for head and neck cancer
Some people with cancer in areas of the head and neck such as the nasopharynx may have changes in their hearing.
These can be due to the effects of the cancer itself or a side effect of treatment. If you have a problem with hearing after your cancer and treatment, you may be referred to a clinic that specialises in hearing problems so that you can be assessed. Appropriate treatment will then be recommended for you.
Hearing loss may be helped with hearing aids or cochlear implants (digital hearing aids that can recognise speech). Sometimes the small tube between the ear and the throat (the Eustachian tube) can become blocked after treatment. The Eustachian tube helps to regulate air pressure in the ear, and if it’s blocked, it can affect hearing. If this happens, a simple operation to put in a tiny tube (grommet) can help the ear to drain and improve hearing. This is usually done under a local anaesthetic.
If you have tinnitus (ringing in the ears), you may be referred to a tinnitus management clinic where you can learn how to reduce its effects.
Our section on changes in communication has more information about treatments and tips to help you cope with hearing problems.