The Link Between Your Kidneys and Your Hearing

By Judy Huch, AuD and Laura Friedman

March is National Kidney Month and today, March 12th, is World Kidney Day. Why is this important? For years we have been aware of rare syndromes involving renal disorder and hearing loss, such as Alport, MYHIIA, Muckle-Wells, Brescheck, and Bartter syndromes.1 But in October 2010, a study done in Australia showed a link between chronic kidney disease (CKD) and hearing loss, which was published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

This study examined the “medical records of 2,564 people aged 50 and over, 513 of whom had moderate chronic kidney disease. Some 54.4% of all the patients with chronic kidney disease had some degree of hearing loss, as compared to only 28.3% of those who had no kidney problems.” Even more interesting, 30% of the CKD patients had a severe hearing loss compared to just 10% in those patients without CKD.

So what is the correlation between the CKD and hearing loss? According to researchers, "The link can be explained by structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney. Additionally, toxins that accumulate in kidney failure can damage nerves, including those in the inner ear." Also, some treatments for kidney ailments are ototoxic, meaning they cause hearing loss. 

In the U.S., there are 31 million adults living with kidney disease, 7.5 million of whom have moderate forms of CKD.  Based on the recent findings it is important that these patients be aware that their hearing is also at risk. If you have patients or know anyone with chronic kidney disorder, please urge them to have their hearing tested annually to monitor any changes to their hearing status.

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1Toriello, H. V., Reardon, W., & Gorlin, R. J. (2004). Hereditary hearing loss and its syndromes. (Second ed., pp. 267-289). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

A portion of this post originally written by Judy Huch, AuD, Editor of Hearing Health @ Hearing Health & Technology Matters.Other content was contributed by Healthy HearingThe American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and Oregon's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

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