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Head and neck cancer tinnitus

Posts: 44
Joined: Feb 2010

Has anyone who has been treated for head and neck cancer with radiation have tinnitus (ringing in the ears) becasue of your treatments. If so, did it go away after treatment.

Posts: 5
Joined: Dec 2011

After radiation treatment and chemotherapy, I did have short bouts of ringing in one ear. It was intermittent and didn't seem to last too long. In any case, the problem has completely gone away and I had completely forgotten about it until I noticed your post. I would at least mention it to your doctors, but hopefully it will go away as mine did.

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2014

Does your tinnitus get worse when you are stressed

lornal's picture
Posts: 428
Joined: Sep 2013

A new thread on tinnitus was started just today.  Go back to the Head & Neck cancer discussion board, and you will see it near the top.  Join this discussion or start a new one.  More folks will read and respond to newer threads.


Hal61's picture
Posts: 655
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi Coupe, cisplatin is the most common cause of tinnitus after chemo. Though I've heard of radiation causing it, that's rare; cisplatin is the known cause the docs will mention.

I've got apparently permanent tinnitus in both ears. Mine didn't start immediately during or after treatment, but came on a couple of months after: first intermittantly in one ear, then the other, then full bore.

The accepted causal theory for it and hearing loss is the damage or death of the hair-like material (not cilia) in the cochlea of the inner ear.

If you are still taking cisplatin and have treatments left, tell your docs of your tinnitus or hearing loss and they might decide to switch you to an alternative chemo mix for subsequent infusions.

If you are past treatment, my ENT said you can expect the tinnitus, after onset, to lessen for up to a year or so after first ring.

Beyond that, if it persists, there are herbal, and over-the-counter products you can try, lots depending on potassium as the active agent. I've tried a couple, including Arches, and Quietus. I've also tried acupuncture directed toward my ears.

Some of these approaches have worked for some people, but there is no known cure for damaged ear hairs or tinnitus in general.

If you haven't had it long, there is a very good chance it will go away.

best to you,

sweetblood22's picture
Posts: 3228
Joined: Jan 2010

...The ringing and the tinkling of the bells, bells, bells, and the tintinnabulation of the bells.....

Now I have that poem stuck in my head.

Pam M's picture
Pam M
Posts: 2196
Joined: Nov 2009

Mine was not severe. Now (1.75 years out), I rarely have a bout, and when I do, it doesn't last long. Hope yours is the same. I had Cisplatin.

Hal61's picture
Posts: 655
Joined: Dec 2009

What Pam says. I know I said my ENT cited improvement only occurring up to about one year, but in fact it can get better way beyond that. I've had a dramatic decrease in volume in the last couple of months, and I'm closing on two years post treatment. And it's not that I'm just "getting used to it", it's a less pronounced, and much more tolerable, amount. My hearing hasn't improved of course, but that side effect is not something that will drive you up the wall like severe tinnitus.


jtl's picture
Posts: 454
Joined: Sep 2011

Most likely Cisplatin since that is one of the cited side effects. It is also the reason that I chose an alternative therapy since I already have significant hearing loss. When I pointed this out to my med onc he agreed and said I could end up deaf.
Happy New Year!

Posts: 185
Joined: Sep 2011

I am sure I have lost hearing from Cisplatin.
I don't notice it much at home but the holiday parties I've attended lately, it often sounds slightly muffled in crowded rooms.

JKMDean's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: Sep 2011

I had 33 treatments of radiation but never took any other medication or chemo (since my cancer doesn't respond to it). After radiation, I developed ringing in my ear and it was driving me crazy, along with some fluid on my ear. The doctor did a hearing test and said that I was missing only one notch of my hearing. As he explained it, the radiation did take that notch of my hearing. My brain, noticing that notch was gone decided to produce that pitch for me - but constantly. So it is really not an ear problem at all, but my brain producing what seems like a sound in my ear. He said it would probably go away within 6 months to 1 year if it was going to go away. I just feel blessed that I only lost that one pitch, which was not even within normal hearing range anyways! The ringing does drive me nuts sometimes but if I sleep with a fan or some kind of noise, I don't even notice it. Hope it gets better for you.

Posts: 1104
Joined: Jan 2011

I hadn't paid much attention to these posts UNTIL TODAY! I only had radiation (I use the term 'only' lightly!) I was radiated twice, 30 plus visits each time in the fall of 2010 and again in 2011. Some sounds have hurt, 5 year old girls high pitched screams at recess, alarm for fire drills at school and praise music at church--usually just immediate pain and I cover my left ear with my hand. Praise band was in full force yesterday at church, I had my hand over my ear BUT last night the ringing started and hasn't stopped, difficult to sleep. Has anyone had relief in the last few months or is it something that I will just have to live with?

Mikemetz's picture
Posts: 402
Joined: Nov 2011

From all that I've read and heard from others, the tinnitus comes from chemo (Cisplatin, specifically) and not radiation. I also have ringing in my ears--more left (radiated side) than right, and the level of it varies. You might want to check with your doctor/s on this.


jco1955's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2014

Hi Dean,


I was treated for neck cancer about three years ago (had radiation and chemo), and developed this tinnitus on, or about, the past six months.  Your comment basicly describe the recent diagnose of my condition. Just want to know (since it was posted about two years ago) if the ringing have disapear compleatly by now.  The intensity of the noise on my left ear have accentuated after a recent ear nerve examinataion at the VA.  It wasn't too severe before, and I was able to ignore it must of the time, but now I'm trying to find ways to cope with it.

By the way, I was told that some medications may increase the ringing noise...  Anyone can corroborate (by experience) any others, beside the chemo, that may have worsened the condition.

Thanks for your help with this anoying condition; I'm hopying it will go away.


CivilMatt's picture
Posts: 4297
Joined: May 2012



Welcome to the H&N forum, where hearing problems associated with treatments is common.

As you mentioned this is an older thread and may not give you the response results you would like

It would be better to start a new post and see who sees it.



donfoo's picture
Posts: 1644
Joined: Dec 2012


Welcome to CSN, great place to get first hand replies from oral cancer patients and survivors. My understanding is tinnitus presents right as chemo treatment is administered, almost always cisplatin. If you did not experience this condition until recently then it is not likely directly related to the original treatment. Either way, get to the doctor to get diagnosed and treated. I do not recollect any stories of people having increasing issues with tinnitus, just those report getting it during treatment and instructed to tell oncology immediately so adjustment to chemo is done to not worsen the condition. good luck don

phrannie51's picture
Posts: 4672
Joined: Mar 2012

since treatment (well, actually, I started getting it about a month before I was diagnosed)....and it hasn't gone away, tho like you....it doesn't seem to bother me much....kind of like white noise.  I haven't taken any meds that make it worse (yet)....but I only take thyroid and vitamins.

I won't be going in for any ear nerve exams, tho after hearing about your experience. Laughing 


snowdancer's picture
Posts: 9
Joined: Mar 2011

I had radiation on my left side and the ringing started there. After cisplatin and carboplatin, and now Tarceva, I am almost completely deaf in my left ear(except for that ringing), but my right ear is fine. I feel it was a combination of treatments that did me in.(hearing wise)

Posts: 29
Joined: Dec 2011

Well, I have to agree with everyone. My doc said it was the cisplatin that did my ears in. My ENT doc said they used to test the hearing prior to treatment but they just expect the tinnitus and why check for hearing loss, it is expected! My tinnitus started about 2 days after my first dose of cisplatin, and has gotten worse after every dose of chemo. I am only 6 weeks or so out of treatment, and no change in the ringing. If anything it is louder, the only time I seen to have a break from the ringing is if I am listening to headphones and have it up loud, but some sounds mix with the ringing just the right way and drives me nuts! My dog has this whinny bark and it sets me off like nothing else. Just annoys the hell out of me. My hearing has been pretty bad as well. Not sure if this is actual hearing loss or inability to hear people talking softly because of the tinnitus. I can't hear my tv unless it is cranked and my wife bitches about it all the time. She is like I can hear that outside, do you need it that loud... I tell her to go outside and listen to it then... she laughs and tells me to go kick rocks.... she's a good woman!
I hope the ringing gets better for ya, good luck with treatments, this site is awesome and I couldn't of made it without the outlet for emotions that this site provided.

Stay strong,

Posts: 88
Joined: Aug 2009

4.5 years and the ringing has never stopped.  I asked for a baseline hearing test before treatment.  The loss was significant due to Cisplatin according to the doc.  A friend suggested the baseline because I need to hear in my line of work.  I'm lucky my insurance covers most of the cost for hearing aids.  The ones I have now have a built in sound machine (white noise).  It doesn’t stop the ringing but diverts my attention.  I sleep with a sound machine too, and the same goes for it (diverts my attention).  The hearing loss and ringing has been two of the most significant side effects.  SO... I'm a fan of white noise to help with the ringing.



Posts: 756
Joined: Apr 2012

After my husband's treatment for laryngeal cancer (radiation and cisplatin) and then cancer at the cervical of his esophagus (radiation and carboplatin) his hearing is shot.  Of course, it could he that he only wants to hear what he wants to hear.  LOL  But he doesn't complain of ringing in his ears.  Something I have had for years and I have never had any chemo or radiation.  ENT says it is due to high frequency hearing loss.  Worked with a woman who had terrible tinnitus and she never underwent any treatments for cancer.


Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2004

I had radiation and chemo 10 years ago, and have had tinnitus ever since. I didn't know what caused it until now. It's pretty loud and continuous, so it interferes with hearing normal conversation. I had Cisplaten and carboplatin.

Posts: 76
Joined: Sep 2011

I am living with tinnitus in both of my ear for nearly 2 years. I've got that from NPC Stage IV treatment with both Chemo & Radiation.

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