Did you know if you have kidney disease you’re about 50% more likely to develop hearing loss than the average person? Kidney problems are one of many medical conditions that may contribute to loss of hearing. And when people have these two together (co-morbidity), hearing loss is more severe and can progress quickly.
If you have kidney issues, you need to know about the connection. And if you’re losing your hearing, it could be a sign your kidneys are in distress. Here’s what I want my patients to know.
Poorly Functioning Kidneys Lead to Toxin Build-up
Your kidneys’ primary job is removing toxins from the body so that you can eliminate them through your urine. When the kidneys stop working, those toxins accumulate. These toxins can do all kinds of damage, including destroying the nerves in your inner ear.
Some parts of the body can recover from toxic damage if you get treatment — but not the inner ear. It lacks the ability to repair itself. This may explain the link between the two. In science, we’d call this a “causal relationship”. One causes the other. But other factors are likely at play here.
Some Kidney Disease Medications Can Cause Hearing Loss
Doctors may prescribe diuretics for kidney disease and many have been linked with worsening hearing loss.
I’ll be honest with you. If I had to choose between losing my kidneys or my hearing. I’d choose hearing loss. End-stage kidney disease is a much more miserable and deadly condition. So I’d never recommend you stop taking your kidney medicine.
But I will say, it’s important to be aware of this possibility so you can take steps to preserve what hearing you can. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and get a hearing test ASAP to track hearing loss progression.
Kidney Disease and Hearing Loss Also Share Risk Factors
Sometimes, one thing causes something else. This is probably true with kidney disease. In other cases, the two happen together because they have risk factors in common. These are called “correlations”, “connections”, or sometimes “links”. In science, correlations just happen to happen together but something else may be causing both of them.
We know that high blood pressure, diabetes, and advanced age can all contribute to both failing kidneys and losing your hearing, so this may explain the connection.
Structural and Functional Similaries Exist Too
It may sound strange, but researchers have found similarities in structure and functionality in the tissues found in the inner ear and the kidney. This similarity could mean that both are susceptible to the same genetic anomalies during development in the womb.
When to Check Your Hearing
If you have known kidney disease, are taking diuretics, have other chronic ailments that often occur with hearing loss, or have noticed you’re not hearing as well as you used to, it’s time to come see me and to learn more about your personalized hearing profile. Contact my office to schedule an appointment.