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Ears Nose and Throat 2019

Combating the effects of cancer treatment on hearing


Professor David Baguley

Research Lead for Clinical Hearing Sciences at NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

Hearing problems can profoundly affect our personal, social and working lives. Collaboration between scientists and clinicians can help translate the latest research into new treatments and therapies for hearing loss.

While there is substantial research on hearing problems associated with age and noise, there has been considerably less into those associated with medications. This effect – ototoxicity – can result in hearing loss, tinnitus, or imbalance, and can have a major impact on quality of life.

The drugs involved are usually powerful, and only administered in life-saving situations. We must now identify ways in which the inner ear can be protected from the side effects of these medications. By identifying factors such as genetics, we may be able to also predict who will be vulnerable to suffering ototoxic effects1.

Commonly used medications

Aminoglycoside antibiotics used to treat life-threatening infections and platinum-based chemotherapy drugs (a mainstay of treatment for many solid tumour cancers) are both under review for their effects on the inner ear. The same properties that make the latter effective in combatting cancer cells also have an impact on the inner ear. The consequence is that many people who go through chemotherapy are living with high frequency hearing loss and/or tinnitus after their cancer has been treated2.

1: Tserga, E., Pandani, T., Devall, N.K., Bulla, J., Patel, P., Canon, B., Cederroth, C.R. and Baguley, D.M., (2019). The genetic vulnerability to cisplatin ototoxicity: a systematic review. Scientific reports, 9(1), p.3455. 2: Pearson, S. E., Taylor, J., Hoare, D. J., Patel, P., & Baguley, D. M. (2019). Exploring the Experiences of Cancer Patients with Chemotherapy-Induced Ototoxicity: Qualitative Study Using Online Health Care Forums. JMIR cancer, 5(1), e10883.

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