Radiation of Head, Neck Tied to Severe Hearing Loss

A fifth of head and neck cancer patients who undergo radiation develop severe hearing handicap

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Radiotherapy for head and neck cancer that includes the auditory system in the radiation field may result in severe hearing loss in nearly one in five patients, according to research published in the November issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

Christiane Schultz, of the Hospital do Cancer A.C. Camargo in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and colleagues conducted a prospective study of 141 patients with head and neck tumors who had undergone radiotherapy and 141 age-matched controls (both cancer patients and volunteers) who had never undergone cancer treatment that put their hearing at risk. All participants underwent complete audiological evaluation.

The researchers found that the participants exposed to radiotherapy were more likely to have some degree of hearing loss than the control participants (72.3 versus 48.9 percent). Most hearing loss was mild sensorineural loss, but 19.1 percent who had received radiotherapy had a severe hearing loss handicap.

"As could be seen from the present study, the group of participants exposed to radiotherapy presented with greater hearing losses of higher grade and with more complaints. This is extremely important because behavioral patterns that are more depressive or that present greater tendencies for social isolation can sometimes be attributed to the cancer or to the functional sequelae of the treatment. Nonetheless, one must remember that hearing loss and hearing handicap may also lead to such behavior," the authors write.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

Physician's Briefing